When I went out to dinner in the Argentine capital the other night, I had no intention of challenging the security net thrown around the first daughters, or even getting a look at Barbara Bush just days after her purse was snatched. And yet, I was able to do both.
Thursday night was the annual Argentine foreign press club dinner held in a chic new restaurant in Buenos Aires. A few colleagues came up and spoke about the presence of the Bush girls in Argentina and asked me questions about the story, and how it broke on ABCNEWS.com.
At one point, a friend who is a producer for RAI of Italy pulled me aside and asked if I'd heard the rumors that the Bush girls were staying in the fashionable Palermo neighborhood -- the same area in which we were dining -- and possibly at a new boutique hotel there.
We talked about how insane it would be for them to stay in such an open, super accessible area like Palermo, which is especially popular with foreigners and filled with ex-pats.
We figured "What the heck?" and walked outside into the hot evening to snoop around. After making a wrong turn and doubling back we realized the boutique hotel was a half block from the restaurant, where the annual foreign press club dinner -- replete with 100 foreign correspondents -- was taking place.
The front of the hotel has a large plate glass window, allowing one to see inside its lobby. I took a quick look, and there, to my amazement, was Barbara Bush, typing away at a computer. Jenna was sitting on a couch alongside of her, and three or four other girlfriends were gathered around.
I walked to the front door, where I fully expected a security guard stationed there to bar our entrance. Instead, as welcoming as any doorman, he swung the door wide open, and we strolled in and right up to where Barbara was just getting off the computer.
"You're Barbara Bush," I blurted out, extending my hand for a handshake.
"Yeah," she answered, shaking my hand.
"Is everything all right after the incident of the other day?" I asked.
"Yeah, just fine!"
With that, she and Jenna and the other young women trotted out the door.
It was astonishing. There was no visible security inside the hotel and nobody blinked an eyelash as my Italian colleague and I walked right up to the first daughters.
The girls walked a short distance to a restaurant called Jangada and sat down at an outside table, where it appeared no handbag or purse was left unattended.
Then a scene altogether different from the one in the hotel began to unfold. Six to eight late-model vehicles, all with darkened, polarized windows closed in. A fire engine came up the street and stopped about 50 yards from where the Bush girls were sitting. The firemen hooked up its hoses to a hydrant, even though, as one fireman admitted to me, there was no fire in the zone.
It was clear the fire department had been called to block off the street. Still, anybody and everybody could walk just beside the table where the Bush party of six sat.
The presidential progeny is a topic of much discussion in Palermo, and many people were fully aware of where they are staying.
The young man who parked and watched my car, a block away from the boutique hotel, was not only aware of the Bush girls' presence, he basically knew their schedules -- when they get up in the morning, when they go out for lunch, when they go out dancing, what time they come back late at night.
Whether the Bush daughters should be kept on a shorter leash or have increased security is not my business. And I hope they're enjoying their visit to Argentina. Maybe I'll even give them some dining suggestions the next time I run into them.