Last night, late, great Jezebel editor Megan Carpentier and friends described the White-House-crashin' Salahis as "the Speidi of Washington." What does that make scapegoat Desiree Rogers: LC? Or, worse, Audrina - someone raising herself above her natural place and abilities?
You know it's bad news when Maureen Dowd sinks in her claws, and that's exactly what the NY Times columnist did this morning to the glamorous White House social secretary, declaring archly,
The statuesque social secretary brandishing a Harvard M.B.A. and animal-print designer shoes is not any mere party planner. The old friend of the first couple from Chicago has the exalted and uncommon title of social secretary and special assistant to the president....Instead of standing outside with a clipboard, eyeballing guests as Anne Hathaway did in "The Devil Wears Prada," Desirée was a guest at the dinner, the center of her own table of guests, just like the president and first lady.
In sum, concludes Dowd, "Even before the Salahis swept in preening, the Obama staffers were there preening, standing around celebrating themselves. And of course, savoring the wonder of the Obama brand."
She's referring, of course, to Rogers' infamous WSJ interview, in which the social secretary (clad, as everyone mentions, in Viktor and Rolf, Prada and Cartier), "We have the best brand on earth: The Obama brand." And despite - or because of - her #28 ranking on Vanity Fair's power list, title as Best-Dressed Washingtonian and front-row seat at Fashion Week next to Anna Wintour, the White House thereafter clamped down on the elegant Rogers' public speaking. As the Washington Post explains,
In recent years, social secretaries had always quashed their own public profiles, demurred from seeking the limelight, in service to their position and in deference to the first lady. Indeed, the names of the most recent social secretaries — Cathy Fenton, Lea Berman and Amy Zantzinger probably ring no bells outside of Washington circles. Those who have more prominent profiles such as Ann Stock, who worked in the Clinton administration and now at the Kennedy Center, and Letitia Baldridge of the Kennedy years, waited until their post-White House years to step into the spotlight.
Arguably, people have been waiting for Rogers to get her comeuppance for some time, but the Salahi's opportunism seems a pretty weak pretext. As Time's Michael Scherer explained it,
Rogers' sin, if it can be called one, was apparently in making herself a guest at the State Dinner-a star not a clerk, you see-for which she wore a cream-colored Comme des Garcons number, which was so high fashion that it looked like she might have made it herself. She also did not assign a staff person to hover over the Secret Service gates checking off guests as they arrived. Security is not her office's responsibility, everyone agrees, but it was possible, some mused, that Rogers or her staff might have provided a second set of eyes to spot interlopers when the Secret Service failed to do its job. Both the Secret Service and the House Homeland Security Committee have promised investigations, but that has not stopped a chorus of conclusions.
Immediately, fingers were pointed at Rogers. Said Lloyd Grove, bitchily, "Where, oh where, was Desiree Rogers?...In the past, White House social secretaries have worked, not partied." Michelle Malkin, of course, jumped into the fray with a slideshow of the secretary's presumably Marie Antoinette-frivolous gowns. Always with the clothes! Said Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan, sagely, "It was the sort of attention-getting dress, with its translucent sleeves and strands of pearls encased in layers of tulle, that proclaimed the wearer a fashion savant."
When Bravo floated the D.C. Housewives franchise, the response was low-level incredulity. No self-respecting D.C. hostess would, it was said, countenance such a thing - and if they did, whither the drama? Well, here we go. This one, first incident has launched enough cattiness for a whole season of Real Housewives, and then some. That's what's so absurd: the objectively ludicrous Salahis didn't need to bring down the dignity of the occasion, or the city, when the tsuris was all there and desperate for any excuse to get out. Bravo's just figured out how to make this series the most dramatic of all - because this time, it's political.
Piling On Desirée Rogers—Is The Social Secretary To Blame For Two Ticketless Boobs At The White House? [Time]
Who's Sari Now? [NY Times]
Rogers's Unwanted New Guest: Scrutiny [Washington Post]
The New Establishment 2009 [Vanity Fair]
Desiree Rogers Voted Washington's Best-Dressed Woman (SLIDESHOW) [HuffPO]
Desirée Rogers' Brand Obama [Wall Street Journal]