It’s not the crime, it’s the … costume cover-up. A new book by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor revealed that the Obama administration tried a little misdirection to keep the press from reporting on a lavish Halloween bash in 2009 as unemployment continued to soar:

It was the tea party the Obamas just couldn’t resist.

A White House “Alice in Wonderland” costume ball — put on by Johnny Depp and Hollywood director Tim Burton — proved to be a Mad-as-a-Hatter idea that was never made public for fear of a political backlash during hard economic times, according to a new tell-all.

“The Obamas,” by New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor, tells of the first Halloween party the first couple feted at the White House in 2009. It was so over the top that “Star Wars” creator George Lucas sent the original Chewbacca to mingle with invited guests.

The book reveals how any official announcement of the glittering affair — coming at a time when Tea Party activists and voters furious over the lagging economy, 10-percent unemployment rate, bank bailouts and Obama’s health-care plan were staging protests — quickly vanished down the rabbit hole.

“White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans — or their representatives in Congress, who would soon vote on health care — that the event was not discussed publicly and Burton’s and Depp’s contributions went unacknowledged,” the book says.

Not true, says the White House:

“There are outlets that have reported this as a secret party, which is just silly — it’s irresponsible reporting to suggest that you would have a pool report and the press at an event that’s secret” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today during the press briefing, adding that photos of Johnny Depp were available from the party. “This wasn’t a publicity event, this was an event for military children,” Carney also noted.

But as the Boss Emeritus noticed, the White House visitor logs appear to have pulled a Chesire cat when it comes to its high-octane guests that evening:

A White House official noted to BuzzFeed that the event wasn’t exactly top secret: Pictures eventually went up on the White House Flickr feed, and a range of television networks covered the party at the time. (The official White House communications, however, didn’t mention Depp and Burton.

One place Depp’s and Burton’s names didn’t show up, however, was the White House visitors logs, which the White House posts voluntarily; critics have asked courts to force the Administration to produce more formal and complete lists.

A search of the loggs turns up neither Depp nor Burton. A White House official said that’s because performers don’t always go through the formal White House entrance procedure.

Er … since when? And who else gets the White Rabbit treatment?  Maybe this is what Obama meant when he said he opposes signing statements.

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