For Obama Aides, Paris Is For Lovers

For President Obama, this final stop in his trip abroad in France, is a solemn affair, with the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. But for two White House aides, Paris is the city of love.

White House assistant press secretary Tommy Vietor took an overnight flight to France last night to surprise his girlfriend, Katie McCormick-Lelyveld -- press secretary for First Lady Michelle Obama -- with an appearance and a marriage proposal.

Ms. McCormick-Lelyveld said yes.

"Pretty smooth move," President Obama said to his speechwriter Jon Favreau this morning, upon being told the news.

The President, Favreau recalls, "asked if Tom was gonna get to hang around for a few days to spend some time with her. Michelle was super excited."

Vietor bought his plane ticket on Monday and hopped on a plane to Paris from Washington, DC, on Friday night. After arriving in the City of Lights just after 6:30 am local time, Vietor, 28, rushed to the US Embassy residence to shower and put on a suit.

The crafty Bostonian had helped coordinate the surprise for his Chicago bride by soliciting the assistance of some "critical co-conspirators."

These included White House scheduler Alyssa Mastromonaco, who has kept secret the vice president searches for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in 2004, and then-Sen. Obama in 2008, and First Lady Obama's scheduler Franny Starkey, who served as the Iowa trip director for President Obama in 2007 and 2008.

In Paris, he solicited the aid of First Lady Obama's traveling aide Kristen Jarvis, who phoned McCormick-Lelyveld to tell her the Obama girls Sasha and Malia were ready early, and she needed to come to the Embassy residence as soon as possible.

Jarvis pointed McCormick-Lelyveld to a room where Vietor was waiting.

"Why are you here?" a stunned McCormick-Lelyveld asked.

"I thought she was going to pass out," Vietor recalls.

Vietor got down on one knee and presented a lovely ring he'd bought with the guidance of his mother.

Of his impressive proposal, Vietor says, "when you know you're punching out of your class, you need to go the extra mile."

Quipped friend and colleague Favreau of how well Vietor's plan stayed secret, "I'm amazed we held the embargo."

Vietor and McCormick-Lelyveld, 30, met when she interviewed him for a job on the 2004 Kerry campaign, a job he ultimately turned down, holding out for the deputy press secretary spot of then-state senator Obama's 2004 Senate campaign.

When they both returned to Washington, DC, after the campaigns were over -- Vietor's successful, McCormick-Lelyveld's less so -- they reacquainted socially and have been together ever since.

- jpt

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