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20 years

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tiger and the White House Party Crashers

Tiger Woods was the best thing that happened this week to the still nearly-famous (will they soon become infamous?) Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the Virginia reality-TV aspiring couple who "crashed" the White House state dinner last week and didn't show up when invited for Congressional testimony.

First Tiger. He didn't know, forgot or wasn't told: Get it over early. The sin is rarely the deed, it's almost always the cover-up. His belated apology and statement took the heat off...temporarily. Next time he tees off at a tournament watch out for a few errant golf shots aimed at the press. Long term damage to Tiger the Golfer and Brand Tiger and is unclear. In a game known to be as much about mental discipline as physical prowess, will Tiger be able to focus as much on the dimpled white ball? For the Tiger Brand, as a private public figure, Tiger's prior great reputation is helping him now.

Second, the Salahi's, who can't seem to retreat from the news. Let's look at the other involved parties (sic). Start with the Secret Service, which has been candid and forthright with owning the problem: "Bottom-line: We're responsible. It could have been very easy to make a phone call or get on a radio and verify if someone was on a list. This is still our responsibility as we've said from the beginning," said Secret Service spokesperson Edwin Donavan.

Note to Tiger: If you make a mistake, direct and rapid acceptance of blame, works. According to media reports, the security breach occurred when Secret Service personnel at a first check point thought that the Salahi names would be checked at a second check point. Playing the game of "Alphonse and Gaston" with security - even with a crush of well dressed party goers - is not acceptable.

Crisis response is also about what did you learn? Assume that there has been analysis among the President's protective detail there will much tighter controls for anyone getting into the White House for any occasion.

The White House Social Office is also in a higher state of Crisis Response. Reportedly, in the Bush administration there would have been a staffer at every entrance with the social list (and perhaps photos of guests) comparing notes with the Secret Service. At the entrance used by the Salahi's, no one from the social office double checked the names on the invite list. Columnists have been having a field day about the social office being more concerned with being scene at the State Dinner than doing the quasi-security job.

As to the Salahi's, aka "Facebraggers" for using Facebook to post their photos, we still don't know where their saga will end. The Washington press has been replete with stories about their personal lives, efforts at social climbing, family feuds and debts. They are vehemently claiming that they were invited to the ball but decided once again not to prove the claim when asked by Congress to tell their saga. And the MO is all about playing the American celebrity game and trying to get paid for their appearances in the news to tell their story. Stay tuned, PT Barnum will probably raise his head and there will be a media sucker who can't resist the habit for the "exclusive". Then we’ll have the crisis of the press that pounds on the media that gets the exclusive (and bemoans the ratings hit).

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