Monday, December 21, 2009

Drinking Oasis but not the Kool-aid at Tackle Box

Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the ominous White House party crashers, may be getting their own reality show; but guests of The Georgetown Dish after party were drinking their family wine. “Oasis” was offered compliments of Yeas & Nays’ columnist Nikki Schwab who picked up a bottle over the weekend. Consensus: No offense to the family business, but we don’t blame Tareq for the troubled vineyard.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Pamela Sorensen

Dec 8

The Secret Service Revealed

They (whoever they are) say that “timing is everything”. There’s no doubt in my mind that New York Times best selling author and multiple award winning journalist Ronald Kessler agrees with that.  Fresh off the press, his latest/18th non-fiction work, called In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with the Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect was an instant NYT Best Seller and has spent 8 weeks on the hot list.

Kessler was the special guest at the author media meet & greet series that Janet Donovan of Creative Enterprises International, Christine Warnke of Hogan & Hartson and soon to be launched The Georgetown Dish’s Beth Solomon hosted on Monday evening.  He and his wife Pamela talked with local media attendees at the reception, addressed the group prior to dinner being served, then patiently answered journalists’ questions before he bit into his dessert.  The book openly and with no shame, tells accounts of the real deal – what really goes on behind the scenes with the overworked, understaffed agents whose job is to take a bullet for the POTUS.

The problem is not the agents, shared Kessler. It’s the management.  He was emphatic in putting money back into the Agency. There’s nothing more important than protecting the President of the United States. If there is an assassination, there is no democracy. Because of budget cuts, these agents are working way too many stressful hours, straining their ability to do their job to the fullest.
On a lighter note, look for entertaining anecdotes of past (and current) Presidents and their families. Who was nice?  Who was naughty?  Who did what in public, yet was actually deceitful?  Washington loves a great Tell All.

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Jessica Rettig

State Dinner Crashing Could Lead to Secret Service Improvements

Corrected on 12/09/09: An earlier version of this article misstated the president who Ron Kessler says was least respectful to his secret service agents. He says it was Carter.

By Jessica Rettig, Washington Whispers

If there's one person who thinks the media attention on the Salahi-state dinner gate-crashing incident was a good thing, it's Ron Kessler, author of the recently published book In the President's Secret Service. The longtime journalist and writer of 17 other nonfiction books said that media scrutiny of the Secret Service is absolutely necessary, since corner-cutting has become the norm among the agents. The agents themselves are honorable men, all college-educated and well screened, and really would take a bullet for the Obamas, he says. But he claims that they are poorly managed and overworked, causing low morale and lots of slack in the system, such as letting unknown blondes in saris walk through security checkpoints when pressure is high.

The whole force, which protects not only the president but many of his staff, operates under a budget of $1.4 billion, about half of what it costs to build a single Stealth bomber. Kessler says that the conditions are detrimental to democracy itself.
At a dinner Monday at Washington's Teatro Goldoni, Kessler gave media representatives a preview of what's in his latest book. During his research, he was able to build up many sources, encouraging past and even current agents—more secretive than even FBI or CIA agents, he said—to open up about the people they protect.

His book gives the scoop on all the first daughters: how Jenna Bush would run through red lights to elude the agents, how Chelsea Clinton got into the most trouble of them all. How Jimmy Carter was a phony with the press—he'd carry his own (empty) luggage to seem more like the rest of America. How Lyndon B. Johnson would regularly strip naked on Air Force One. And how, long before the days of Monica Lewinsky, Johnson had his Secret Service agents install a buzzer to alert him when his wife was coming into the Oval Office. That was after she discovered him having sex with one of his aides.
As for our current president? Kessler says he's much more respectful to his agents than past presidents. (Carter was the least, he says.) He and Michelle even have special dinners for the Secret Service. The only dirt that Kessler found is that Obama still smokes from time to time, despite saying he's stopped. When asked if he thinks Obama is safe, Kessler replied, "No." He says that, especially after the party crashers, the president needs to fire Mark Sullivan, the director of the Secret Service, and at least double the agency's budget if he wants his family and staff truly out of harm's way.

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Patrick Gavin


Author Ronald Kessler just penned "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect," so he's been closely following the case of Michaele and Tareq Salahi.

POLITICO caught up with Kessler at Teatro Goldoni Monday night, where he was being feted with a dinner party in his honor. Click the above video to hear Kessler's thoughts on the Salahi case, whether it will inspire imitators and whether Social Secretary Desiree Rogers deserves some of the blame.

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Jennifer Nycz-Conner

Jennifer Nycz-Conner

Ronald Kessler dishes about the Secret Service, and Beth Solomon dishes about Georgetown

Tuesday, December 8, 2009, 2:53pm EST
Ronald Kessler
Monday night, The New York Times best selling author Ronald Kessler entertained three dozen or so dinner companions at Teatro Goldoni with tales from his new (and his 18th) book, "In the President's Secret Service." Kessler has become a familiar face on the talking head circuit lately thanks to the continuing saga of the Party Crashers Who Shall Not Be Named. As an added course, one of the evening's hostesses, Beth Solomon, had some media news of her own to share. But more on that in a minute.
Kessler recounted tales of everything from which presidents really measured up to the personas they wanted to project (after all, who knows that truth better than the people protecting them 24-7?), to Jenna Bush's attempts to ditch her agents at red lights, to a frank discussion about a stagnant budget leading to too much corner cutting.
A second course of information came from Solomon, a former congressional speechwriter, current headhunter and yoga instructor and soon-to-be publisher of TheGeorgetownDish, a new news and social media site focusing on, well, all happenings Georgetown. Solomon has lined up numerous columnists known in Georgetown and social circles, including Mary Bird, dermatologist Tina Alster and Patty Ivey of Down Dog Yoga.
Beth Solomon
Look for the new neighborhood pub to launch Dec. 16 with a feel that's a cross between The Huffington Post and Washington Life, Solomon says.
And if all goes well, this is just the start of a larger neighborhood of publications: Solomon has already reserved the URLs for other potential dish's, including McLean, Old Town, Newport, Palm Beach and the Hamptons.

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler at Teatro Goldoni by Christine Delargy

FishbowlDC - Where Politics & DC Media Mesh

Kessler Dishes on Secret Service, Salahis and His New Book

Kessler at Teatro Goldoni.
"An author's life is a roller coaster. Sometimes you write a book that no one really cares about, but this one is quite the opposite," Ronald Kessler said of his latest "In the President's Secret Service" to a small dinner of journos last night.

Consider the timing- Kessler's book came out just before the Salahis party-crashing story broke. He says that the stories in his book actually exceed this White House security breach. And that the fault lies with the Secret Service's management.
The dinner at Teatro Goldoni was hosted by Janet Donovan, Christina Warnke and Beth Solomon, whose Georgetown Dish launches next week.
Joining them was: CBS' Steve Chaggaris, Pamela's Punch Pamela Sorensen, Bisnow's Patrick Dowd, Yeas & Nays' Nikki Schwab, Washington Whispers' Jessica Rettig, Washington Life's John Arundel (with mags hot off the press in hand), Bill Press, Fox's Catherine Herridge and The Hill's Christina Wilkie.
With late appearances by Time's Jay Newton-Small and Bobby Ghosh, Politico's Kiki Ryan, Tim Burger and Christina Sevilla.
More photos courtesy of the lovely Pamela Sorensen after the jump...

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler by Christina Wilke, The Hill

Author Ron Kessler on the 'trouble' with the Secret Service

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December 8, 2009, 10:32 am by Christina Wilkie
Best-selling author Ron Kessler spoke about his new book, "In the President's Secret Service," at a dinner Monday at Teatro Goldoni hosted by publicist Janet Donovan, "Georgetown Dish" publisher Beth Solomon, and Hogan & Hartson lawyer Christine Warnke.

The guest list reflected a broad spectrum of D.C. media personalities, ranging from Fox News Channel's homeland security correspondent, Catherine Herridge, to social chronicler Pamela Sorensen of Pamela's Punch.

Kessler's in-depth look at the executive protection agency was released early this fall and rose to the top of the non-fiction bestseller lists; but little could have prepared him for "Crashergate."

Ever since the White House state dinner security breach on Nov. 24, Kessler (pictured here with his wife, Pam Kessler) has appeared nearly non-stop on cable TV talk shows, sharing his observations on how the culture and management of the Secret Service might have contributed to the security breakdown.

Kessler told ITK he doesn't think individual agents are to blame for the Salahi breach; rather, it's a Service-wide culture that glorifies restraint, frugality and stoicism, even if sometimes it comes at the expense of a  mission. "The trouble is that the agents are admirable, but the management is derelict," he explained.

Can the battered Secret Service be restored to its former glory? Kessler believes it can, but only through a major shake-up at the highest levels. One person Kessler thinks might be able to set the U.S.S.S. back on track is the  director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller, who is set to retire from his post in two years. "They need an outsider," said Kessler. "Someone with fresh blood to inject into the operation."

Dinner in honor of Ron Kessler by Nikki Schwab, Yeas & Nays


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Secret Service cutting corners, spilling secrets

By: Nikki Schwab and Tara Palmeri
Washington Examiner
12/09/09 6:00 PM EST

Journalist Ronald Kessler said he wasn't surprised when it was discovered that two wannabe socialites had slipped through the Secret Service to attend last month's state dinner.
"I had been expecting a major calamity for a long time," said the author of "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect."
While researching the project, Kessler was able to get agents to talk about what he viewed as "corner cutting" at the agency, starting when it became part of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, and got them to reveal a handful of anecdotes about the current president.
For one, President Obama is no quitter.
"He's continued to smoke on a regular basis," Kessler revealed to Yeas & Nays and a handful of other Washington journalists gathered at K Street restaurant Teatro Goldoni on Monday night. The president has said he's "95 percent" cured of his smoking habit.
Also, the now-president secretly met with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., smack in the middle of the controversy surrounding the preacher's inflammatory rhetoric. Agents purposely drove Obama to the meeting in a minivan instead of his regular Suburban so they would go unnoticed, Kessler's book notes.
But for Kessler, the Washington correspondent for, the juiciest and scariest stuff still comes down to security. In one instance, Kessler said, the Secret Service didn't use magnetometers on the full crowd for an appearance by Vice President Biden.
His take-away: "I can't imagine anything more shocking," he said. "It's like letting passengers into an airplane without metal detection."