Friday, July 30, 2010

This is what happens when you use people as props

All presidents do it, but it's still annoying. Whenever they want to make a political point, they trot out a few semi-anonymous people to serve as props to illustrate whatever argument they're making. Maybe it was powerful the first dozen times it was done, but now it's just crass political manipulation.

That's why it was so amusing to read this story of the administration's embarrassment about one of the people they brought out to the Rose Garden when President Obama was making a last push for extending unemployment insurance.
A Charlottesville, Va., resident who stood with President Obama would likely not have been asked to participate in a Rose Garden speech on unemployment if the White House had known she was convicted of prescription drug fraud charges in April 2009, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday.
Ya think?

What I'm wondering is - where is the Secret Service on this? Don't they screen people who get in to stand next to the President? I thought they would at least google the names of strangers admitted to the White House. If they had, might they have not turned up this information?
WCAV CBS-19 News first reported on Wednesday that Leslie Macko lost her job as an aesthetician at a local spa about one month after being convicted in March 2009 on fraud charges. She reportedly served a one year probationary sentence.

Macko stood by the president earlier this month when he called on Congress to extend unemployment insurance benefits that were passed into law last week.

"We need to extend unemployment compensation benefits for women like Leslie Macko, who lost her job at a fitness center last year, and has been looking for work ever since. Because she's eligible for only a few more weeks of unemployment, she's doing what she never thought she'd have to do. Not at this point, anyway. She's turning to her father for financial support," Obama said in his speech.
With all the people unemployed out there, they couldn't find someone who was convicted of fraud?

I wonder how they find their props. Did they just head down to the unemployment office and look for suitable people?

The Secret Service is giving a rather slippery answer.
The Secret Service suggested Macko was subjected to a background check but declined to offer specifics.

"We do not comment or confirm the existence of anyone's criminal history or lack thereof," agency spokesman Malcom Wiley said in a written statement. "Anyone who is granted access to the White House or any venue that we protect does so only after an assessment of dangerousness is made."
Hmmm. I wonder if they found out the information about her criminal background, decided that she wasn't a threat, and then shrugged and figured that it wasn't their job to alert the administration. If they got embarrassed about their political prop, that is their problem. The only other answer is that the Secret Service does a pretty crummy job of vetting people who get into the White House.

They'll learn to pick their props more carefully after this. Or better yet, stop insulting our intelligence by bringing these people out. But I fear that politicians will never stop seeing human beings as political tools.