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[caption id="attachment_2676" align="alignright" width="300" caption="I was here, but much further away than this."][/caption]
September 13, 1993. The Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were being signed at the White House and it was quite the event in Washington. I was working for a Congressman and the invite came through for “The Congressman and his wife” to come to the White House and attend.
Well the Congressman’s wife didn’t feel like going, so my Chief of Staff called me in and said “You’re going. It’s been cleared with the White House.” I said ok and that afternoon walked over to the House steps and met up with the boss.
“I’m to join you at the White House” I said.
“Are they (the White House) aware of that” he said.
“As far as I know”
“Ok, let’s get on the bus.”
When I was getting on the bus I was stopped by some harried staffer.
“Who are you?”
“I’m with him” I said, pointing to the boss.
“Do they (the White House) know about it?”
“Yea, it’s all cool at their end” I said.
That was it, on the bus, and she went back to dealing with more chaos on the steps.
So we got on this bus and had a police escort down the Mall to the White House 17th and E Street Entrance (back in the days before it was all closed down to traffic). We pulled into West Executive Avenue and got off the bus, going straight onto the South Lawn of the White House, no metal detectors or X-rays or anything. The Congressman headed toward the front and I said ‘see you later’. I eventually found a seat quite a bit further back, sitting next to the Presidents of Howard, Georgetown and GWU universities. I remember actually telling the Howard University President “My dad says I should go to your law school and try to get a minority scholarship” to which he laughed. “Sure, send in an application.” We chatted a bit more and he said “the White House loves to drags us (referring to all the other presidents) out for these sorts of things”.
Anyway, ruffles and flourishes and all that. The famous handshake which my tiny camera got a very small picture of as people were jumping up cheering when it actually took place. And then it sort of just broke up. I walked back to the Congressional bus and sat next to a Congressman from Illinois (I don’t recall which, but we chatted some downstate Illinois stuff). He was actually kind of impressed I was there saying he didn’t know staff were invited. I just told him “we finagled it” not knowing if we really did or not.
Did they know about it? Hell if I really knew. I was going on faith it was all sorted, but my Chief of Staff never showed me an email or proof of that fact (this was in the days before email). I do know I was never queried after I got on the bus, and walked right onto the grounds without anyone ever challenging me. I guess they assumed someone at the Capitol sorted it all out and the Secret Service didn’t want to upset a Congressman. But was I really on the list? To this date I don’t know.
In the end, it just shows that general fact: if you look like you know what you are doing, most people will generally get out of your way and let you go do it. I can’t tell you how many security guards / doorman I’ve just breezed past in DC and NY because I had ‘that look’ of someone who was supposed to be there.
So when I read about slight glitches here and there at the White House recently, I’m really not all that surprised.]]>