Desirée Rogers has been viewed askance by some of her White House colleagues for a while now: viewed as flashy and spotlight-seeking, after she appeared in several glossy magazines in high-fashion attire, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs blocked a photo of her posing in an Oscar de la Renta gown in the First Lady’s garden from being published. And now that the Salahi scandal tainted her first White House State Dinner, two of the women with the most powerful pens in Washington have started spilling ink all over her. This morning, the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan has a long story examining Rogers’s fate.
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 … No one with a clipboard and walkie-talkie was standing sentry at the southeast gate when the Salahis arrived, identifying themselves as guests, according to the White House. Such velvet-rope vigilance is common everywhere from third-tier nightclubs to Seventh Avenue fashion shows and celebrity-drenched parties. And there’s the matter of former White House staffer Cathy Hargraves, who predated the Obamas as in-house guest-list guru and abruptly quit in June, according to Newsweek, because she had been stripped of much of her responsibility by Rogers.
Givhan has done her research, looking back into both Rogers’s and the Obamas’ history back in Chicago. Back then, she writes, Rogers was a member of the city’s glamorous high society — which might explain her repeated forays into the spotlight. “The Obamas were the nice couple from the South Side,” Givhan explains. “She was a cut above. And now she has a job in which she is expected to serve at their pleasure.”
Maureen Dowd, on the other hand,
Desirée Rogers, who has also been asked to testify Thursday, has been cruising for a bruising since telling The Wall Street Journal in April: “We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand. Our possibilities are endless.” … Rogers also conjured up a White House closing ranks on itself, allowing far too many West Wing staffers, mid-level political aides, press flacks and speechwriters to attend the prestigious premiere state dinner, rather than people more relevant to the Indian guests of honor. The Obama team always talks of making the White House “the People’s House,” so why let it look like the White House Mess? 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.
Of course, the Salahi incident in itself won’t decide Rogers’s fate in the White House one way or another. That would be letting the non-terrorists win. But this can’t be an easy time for the woman known for her glamour, efficiency, and easy smile.