TPM News

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) suggested on CNN's State of the Union this morning that the Senate's health care debate -- set to begin tomorrow -- ought to be delayed until next year so the Senate can focus on the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. economy.

"The war is terribly important," Lugar said. "Jobs and our economy are terribly important. This may be an audacious suggestion, but I would suggest we put aside the health care debate until next year, the same way we put cap-and-trade and climate change [aside], and talk now about the essentials -- the war and money."

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House Oversight Chairman Wants Answers On Party Crashers Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants answers on the two party-crashers at President Obama's state dinner. "We need an immediate investigation into the facts of this case, and a review of the Secret Service's security practices," said Towns. "I have asked for a preliminary briefing next week and will follow the investigation until we understand what actually happened."

New Group Seeks To Draft Dick Cheney For 2012 Presidential Race A new Web site, Draft Cheney 2012, has been launched to ask former Vice President Dick Cheney to run for president in 2012. "There is only one person in our party with the experience, political courage and unwavering commitment to the values that made our party strong - and that person is Dick Cheney," said Christopher Barron, an organizer of the group.

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We already know that now-famed party crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi of Hume in Faquier County in Virginia like to pose with celebrities and top politicians, but they also dabble a bit in local political donations.

Tareq Salahi, who owns Oasis Winery, has made two donations large enough to make the federal database - $600 to Republican George Allen's first campaign for the U.S. Senate in Virginia and $1,000 to Rep. Jim Moran's (D-VA) primary campaign in 2006.

Virginia Public Access Project records show that Tim Kaine's inaugural committee bought $25,000 worth of Oasis wine for an event held the night before Kaine's inauguration in 2006 as governor of Virginia.

TPMDC tonight interviewed state Delegate Dave Albo, a Republican from Northern Virginia.

Albo is a longtime friend of the Salahis, even attending an ACDC concert with them recently.

"They are really fun and very nice," he said.

Albo said the Salahis spend a lot of time at social events.

"They are the kind of people who would get invited to something like that," Albo said.

As I reported earlier, they have attended events at the executive mansion and were involved with Virginia tourism promotion and active in the state's winery association.

Salahi also donated $2,500 to a Democratic candidate for delegate in 2007.

The White House just released this photo of Michaele and Tareq Salahi meeting President Obama at the Nov. 24 state dinner the Salahis crashed.

Check it out:

Here's our story on the couple.

And check out this rundown of other famous people the Salahis have shaken hands with, including John McCain, Donny Osmond, Charlie Rangel, Prince Charles and Matt Damon.

Earlier tonight, the Secret Service took sole responsibility for the Salahi-Obama handshake, and promised that other uninvited socialites will not be taking pictures with the leader of the free world any time soon.

A White House official tells TPM that Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who were not invited to last week's state dinner, managed to get some face time with President Obama.

The official said the couple met Obama in the receiving line at the dinner Tuesday.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said the administration requested the Secret Service do a full review, and also praised agents for their work protecting the president:

"The men and women of the Secret Service put their lives on the line everyday to protect us, they are heroes and they have the full confidence of the President of United States. The White House asked the United States Secret Service to do a full review and they are doing that. The United States Secret Service said they made a mistake and they are taking action to identify exactly what happened and they will take the appropriate measures pending the results of their investigation."

Michaele and Tareq Salahi had attended events through the Indian embassy, and today speculated as to whether the couple's ties to the embassy had something to do with how they ended up at the state dinner

Embassy spokesman Rahul Chhabra strongly denied that possibility.

"Neither the embassy nor anyone from the embassy was involved in any way in their getting into the White House. Nor did we request any invitation for them," Chhabra told TPM today.

For all the consternation about how two uninvited reality show hopefuls were able to crash a state dinner at the White House, much remains unknown about who the husband and wife glitterati wannabes actually are.

TPM has been digging, and on close examination Michaele and Tareq Salahi have been moving in high end social and political circles for quite some time.

The White House is just the creme de la creme of the hot spots they've hit - the Salahis have attended receptions at the Executive Mansion in Virginia, big-dollar dinners for Congressional leadership and appear grinning next to top politicians and celebrities in dozens of photos on the Internet.

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The director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, just released a statement on the couple who got into the White House state dinner this week without an invitation. Here is the full text:

On Friday, November 27, 2009, United States Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan issued the following statement:

"The Secret Service is deeply concerned and embarrassed by the circumstances surrounding the State Dinner on Tuesday, November 24.

The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list.

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