Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The rat in the punchbowl

Another sordid tale of how the hired help screwed things up

I feel bad for the poor woman:

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." Little did she know that the evening would end up tarnishing her vaunted reputation as an overachieving perfectionist.

Virginia socialites Michaele and Tareq Salahi managed to get past Secret Service, proceed into the dinner -- uninvited, the White House says -- and pose for pictures with VIP guests and shake hands with the president. Now 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.

On Thursday, a House committee wants answers from her about how this could happen. A key question: Was anyone from Rogers's office staffing the front gate? Even though Secret Service has accepted full responsibility for the security lapse, Rogers also has indicated that none of her staff was present when the Salahis arrived. As a result, her managerial style is under scrutiny. And her Hollywood persona, fairly or unfairly, could prove to be the most damning evidence of all.

Rogers -- the point person for the high-profile, high-security, high-stakes diplomatic gala for the Indian prime minister -- was dressed in a pale peach gown from the avant-garde Japanese design house Comme des Garcons. 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.

How does her managerial style come under scrutiny when D-list scrubs crash her event? Did the Secret Service allow in people who shouldn't have been there? Didn't their mistake allow two people to breach the security of the event and introduce the unknown?

The best organizers often accomplish great things and then see some rubes drop a rat in the punchbowl. How is it their fault, then, if they're not the ones who let the rubes in in the first place? I don't get that. How, then, was she "basking" in the limelight? Is this an example of that shoddy journalism that the Washington Post is cutting its teeth upon? Is this a made up fantasy? I automatically don't believe anything in the article now.

Rogers is the hired help, and she, no doubt, remembers that by attending to her duties when necessary. She's been at this a while. To write that she was stumbling around, fanning herself with glory, belies the image of a perfectionist who knows how to organize an event. Which is she, then?

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