Mike Cassesso’s e-mail Monday to a general inbox for the local staff of The Washington Post could have easily been ignored, buried beneath news releases sent daily to the paper’s reporters. But Cassesso, a former staffer on two senatorial election campaigns, was pretty sure his message — a complaint that the federal government’s shutdown meant he couldn’t get married Saturday at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial — would easily tantalize.
He just didn’t know by how much. In four days, the AARP legislative analyst’s note to The Post led to stories here and on news sites around the world, and to appearances on NBC and CNN. As if that weren’t enough ludicrous attention for Cassesso and his partner, MaiLien Le, the couple also participated in a two-part, 10-minute wedding ceremony Thursday night on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” featuring the actor Mandy Patinkin, who blessed them with a Hebrew prayer and, of course, pronounced the day and time when his CIA thriller “Homeland” airs on Showtime.
Cassesso and Le, who aren’t Jewish and don’t even watch “Homeland,” weren’t the only ordinary people this week leaping to shutdown stardom. There were all of those elderly veterans who “stormed” the National World War II Memorial. And there was the National Park Service ranger caught on viral video
getting scolded by a Texas Republican congressman for denying access to those World War II veterans. (The anonymous ranger got an extra spin in the news cycle Thursday night after Vice President Biden’s office tweeted that Biden had called the ranger, telling her, “I’m proud of you.”)
For Cassesso and Le, however, the shutdown was easily the best thing that could have happened to their wedding.
“When The Post ran the original story, we assumed it was the high mark,” Cassesso said Friday. “Then, we got the calls, the tweets and e-mails about doing stuff with local and national media, and we thought, ‘Okay, this is the zenith.’ Then ‘Colbert’ happened, and we couldn’t believe it. We kept saying, ‘How did we get here?’ ”
Cassesso, 29, and Le, 30, a project coordinator for an executive search firm, know something about politics and the media. He has worked for Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). She has been a researcher for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign and worked on the reelection campaign for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D).
Cassesso said it was his idea to write to The Post on Monday about the shutdown shutting down their wedding site. That day, he and Le had reached a boiling point: The National Park Service had confirmed that they could not get married on the west lawn of the Jefferson Memorial, even though they had paid for the $50 permit and were just days from the event, with friends and relatives already flying in. The shutdown meant any wedding — any family trips, school tours — could not take place at any of the country’s 401 national parks. Cassesso and Le were among 24 couples scheduled to have weddings on the Mall this month.