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“On the night of the Obamas’ first state dinner, White House social secretary Desirée Rogers glided past the rope line of press and photographers at 6:53 p.m., pausing to boast, “We are very excited . . . everything looks great,” the Washington Post reported yesterday. “Little did she know that the evening would end up tarnishing her vaunted reputation as an overachieving perfectionist.”
“Will a star be shorn?” asked the story. It said that “questions have been raised over whether Rogers, whose office drew up the guest list, was so busy basking in the limelight that she failed to notice what was unfolding in the shadows.” What was unfolding, of course, was Michaele and Tareq Salahi’s having their pictures snapped with Obama and other administration officials, and generally having a fine time at the state dinner.
Where did Rogers get her “vaunted reputation as an overachieving perfectionist” in the first place? The answer is from a Post item back in February, an online interview with Rogers titled, “Managing the Highest-Profile Social Scene.” An introduction to the interview described Rogers as the “glamorous new social secretary” and “the most influential event planner on the planet, a woman empowered to use 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to set the cultural tone for the Obama era.”
“No detail escapes her eye,” said the story, a comment that seems particularly ironic in light of the unfolding Dinnergate scandal.
This was one of a series of puff jobs the Post has run about Obama’s incoming team, stories sometimes known as “beat sweeteners”. Rogers’s assistant, Samantha Tubman, received similarly fawning treatment in a profile that ran last month.
“She’s super-nice,” wrote Dan Zak. “She’s an Ivy Leaguer who radiates modesty and competence. No one will say a bad word about her, even in jest. She dresses well, loves her family, lives near Logan Circle, brunches with friends on Sundays, balks at turning 30 next month, and is one of those former bright-eyed campaign troupers who (cliche alert!) constantly pinches herself when reporting for duty at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”
The story included glowing praise from Rogers and Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass (“She’s a genius, she’s a hero, she’s a one-woman army”) and Zak himself called Tubman “a maestra of the minutiae behind events that play out all over the White House, making sure the right podium is used, that every player is on the same page, that the ticktock of a program runs smoothly.”
Zak said that Tubman’s efficiency would soon be on display as she had been intimately involved in planning sessions for the Obama administration’s upcoming debut state dinner.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”