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Phil Bronstein

Phil Bronstein

Posted: November 30, 2009 08:09 PM

When's A Crash Like A Train Wreck? When We Can't Look Away...

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In the film The Paper, Michael Keaton's editor character explains to a reporter that you can always get past a police barricade or most other obstacles "with a clipboard and a confident manner."

Tareq and Michaele Salahi were just extending the concept, leavening one of Washington's most tony events with a little Punk'd of their own.

Wherever they take their bows -- reality TV, congressional hearings or jail -- they should thank their long supporting cast of characters, including the Secret Service, which seems so far to have gotten off easy, and President Obama's own egalitarian mystique.

In Crestview, Florida, a man crashed someone else's house and started taking a shower. When confronted, he said "Obama let him in." So the sense of the president's open-house policy is spreading. (The man also told police he got there by "the yellow brick road," apparently an allusion to Mr. Obama's audacity of hope.)

The Salahis were actually doing us all a favor by pointing out some flaws in the system, like those people who smuggle weapons on planes to prove a point. Who really looked sillier, the gate crashers or the entire square-jawed security apparatus around the president?

They also created an icon of crass publicity-seeking and celebrity lust that we could unite around in distaste, however briefly. This diverted attention from those pesky and fractious issues like Afghanistan, where even the war columnist for Slate doesn't know what to do. Or there's still that whole Sarah-Palin-divide thing.

And the couple provided lots of holiday fodder for scolding commentators, who found the debased-celebrity-culture lifeline and yanked it for all it was worth. This was our collective fault, they said, for providing cheap fame on TV and luring soulless but sometimes pitiable people into the purchase on the other end.

Please. We didn't find out anything about our culture we didn't already know.

The Salahis, meanwhile, denied they were shopping their story to the media for money. They denied it through their publicist. How funny is that?

But really, what's more of a social equalizer than having a couple with some rented clothes sauntering straight up the White House walkway and into a welcoming line with the most powerful people in the world?

The other crasher of the week, Tiger Woods, was a feel-good icon sliding down the ratings ladder while the Salahis were climbing up. The National Enquirer, more often right than crazy the last few years, says Mr. Woods' mysterious accident had to do with an affair he was having with a New York club "hostess." (Cupcake jokes aside, what, exactly does that mean?)

But Tiger should get the same bye on prosecution as the Salahis, though they all need to do what the shower man in Florida did: talk to authorities. Nobody's perfect, even Tiger Woods.

While talent played a big part in his fame, and we're still trying to figure out what the Salahis actually do, they're all playing the same course when it comes to notoriety, and it has its bogies and its birdies.

No one got killed, fortunately. No curare lipstick touched the president, even if Joe Biden seemed the closest to the blond ambition danger.

All the scolds ought to move on to something worthwhile, like the debate over whether Suri Cruise should be wearing high heels.

 

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