I knew this was the real story with the party crashers the minute I saw everyone having a hissy fit over something that should have been a silly little one-day joke. We used to call it standard social climbing, but in the village they call it "tradition" and elevate it to a blood sport.
SO far, the journey of Michaele and Tareq Salahi from unknown arrivistes to notorious party crashers has focused on the apparent slipups of the Secret Service and the White House social secretary. But to fully grasp the ongoing conniption inspired by the episode, you need to understand that when Ms. Salahi strutted onto the South Lawn in that bright red lehenga, she and her husband breached far more than a secure perimeter.
They also trampled countless protocols that are the social, business and networking bedrock of official Washington. Essentially, the couple used the mixed martial arts approach to upward mobility in a town that still cherishes the Marquess of Queensberry rules. And it looks like the town will be spluttering about it for quite some time.
“Washington is a small ‘c’ conservative kind of society, in which people are aware of the traditions and boundaries of appropriate behavior,” said Wayne Berman, a Republican lobbyist. “It’s a city about rules, about conventions and if there’s no keg at the party, it doesn’t get crashed.”
Of course, if the Salahis had slipped past the bouncers at, say, P. Diddy’s birthday bash and then posted the evidence online, the feat would never have been noticed. But a magnetometer is not simply a velvet rope that beeps, and just because Washington has long been called Hollywood for ugly people doesn’t mean that what works in Hollywood — or New York, or anywhere else, for that matter — will work in Washington.
Any number of social strategies that succeed elsewhere will fail catastrophically here. Like feigned closeness. In Hollywood, it’s understood that when an agent says, “Tom is looking to take his career in a new direction,” the agent might never have met Tom Cruise, let alone know him well enough to call him by his first name. In Washington, there are legions of people who don’t even use the first or last name of the people who employ them.
“When I worked for Al Gore, I didn’t call him ‘Al’ or even ‘Mr. Gore,’ ” says Chris Lehane, a former spokesman for the ex-vice president. “He was Mr. Vice President. Even now I call him Mr. Vice President. There’s an element of decorum and formality in Washington, that I think stems from the fact that these are elected officials. And I think the Salahi incident rattled that sense of decorum.”
When Ms. Salahi sidled up to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., she was faking a friendship she didn’t have. She was also cutting ahead of thousands of people who spend years trying to win entry into gatherings of Washington’s elite.
Interestingly, if you happen to torture people, invade countries for no good reason, try prisoners in kangaroo courts,steal elections and engage in all manner of moral depravity,(update: including this) these same aghast socialites will bow at your feet. Once you're in, you're really in.