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NYT pity party for Obama bundler-turned-bungler Desiree Rogers

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By Michelle Malkin  •  March 12, 2010 12:59 PM

The New York Times lends more than 2,000 words to console laughingstock former WH social secretary Desiree Rogers.

Bring a Kleenex to the pity party:

The rise and fall of Desirée Rogers, the glamorous Harvard-educated corporate executive who brought sizzle to the State Dining Room but became a victim of a publicity stunt by a pair of aspiring reality show stars, is a tale familiar to almost any White House. A new president comes to town and installs friends he trusts, but inevitably some of them wind up burned by the klieg lights and corrosive politics of Washington.

While it has happened to past presidents, though, this was the first time it has happened to Mr. Obama, who prided himself on running a campaign free of the typical petty rivalries and personal subplots that distract other politicians. And it happened with a friend who at first was celebrated for personifying the fresh, new-generation approach that the Obamas promised to bring to Washington.

For Ms. Rogers, associates said the episode proved a searing experience that has soured her on Washington. She believes she was left largely undefended by the White House, by her colleagues, including Mr. Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and even her close friend, Valerie Jarrett. And while she is unwilling to discuss her story publicly, several associates shared her account in the belief that her side has been lost in the swirl of hearings, backbiting and paparazzilike coverage.

“As she put it, ‘They never lifted a finger to help me set the record straight,’ ” said one of the associates, who insisted on not being identified to avoid alienating the White House. “She didn’t get any help from Gibbs, no help from Axelrod, no help from Valerie Jarrett. Nobody came to her defense.”

Visions of Icarus dance through our heads:

Tall and striking, Ms. Rogers can easily pass for younger than her 50 years. She seemed to the Obamas to be a natural for White House social secretary. The first African-American to hold the job, she swept into Washington brimming with ideas for executing the Obamas’ vision of opening the White House to a wider circle of people, and became an instant magnet for attention.

After taking an apartment in the same exclusive Georgetown building as her friend, Ms. Jarrett, Ms. Rogers quickly became a hot Washington draw. She posed for a spread for Vogue and later accompanied its editor, Anna Wintour, to Fashion Week in New York. Within months, other magazines came calling, including Town & Country, Vanity Fair, Michigan Avenue and Capitol File.

But it was a spread in The Wall Street Journal’s magazine, WSJ, with the expensive clothes and jewelry provided by the magazine, that got her in trouble in the White House.

Mr. Axelrod called her in for a long conversation about her interviews and photo shoots, warning her explicitly that she was flying into dangerous territory and that Washington loves to watch people become too big and ultimately crash and burn, according to people familiar with the conversation. Ms. Rogers noted that everything she had done had been approved by the White House. She viewed her trips to fashion shows and other events as a way to make connections in the creative community and find talent to perform at the White House.

And the requisite race-card climax:

Lisa Caputo, who worked in the East Wing under Mrs. Clinton when she was first lady, said Ms. Rogers had weathered the hothouse glare of Washington with grace. “She’s done a fantastic job of opening the White House,” Ms. Caputo said.

“She was put in a position where the spotlight was put on her in a different way,” Ms. Caputo added, “coming in as someone who was not a Washingtonian, coming into a high-profile senior role and being the first African-American in that role. The combination of all three makes it not easy. I would venture to say she’s had a larger mountain to climb.”

One of my favorite GOP congressmen, Louis Gohmert, has a better take in The Hill:

Gohmert called the White House’s handling of the incident “incompetent.”

“The point here is that this is a circus over there,” he said. “Nobody seems to know what’s going on and when accountability was demanded and the social secretary was requested by members of Congress to come testify, they said we’re not going to let you come testify.”

“It is a circus going on over there and now the people of the circus want to be in charge of your healthcare. Good grief, it’s time to say we don’t want clowns in charge of something as important as our healthcare. I don’t even want them in charge of algae blooms.”

Gohmert said that before the “gate-crashing” incident, the White House used to require 24-hour notice from members of Congress to run security checks using their social security number and date of birth. But since the incident, members of Congress have to provide 48-hours notice, he said.

A White House spokesman referred questions of its security measures to the Secret Service, which did not immediately return requests for comment.

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Categories: Desiree Rogers, Michelle Obama, Valerie Jarrett

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