Skip to comments.The new 'in' crowd
Posted on 01/05/2009 1:57:09 AM PST by Tailgunner Joe
For eight years, the president of the United States the ex-officio socialite in chief has turned up his nose at the slightest whiff of social aspiration. Now a new generation of Washington socialites has a dream. They see a dashing, young, brilliant president and his equally brilliant wife ushering in an era of inclusive entertaining. Gone is the white-gloved, debutante-loving, Pilgrim-pedigreed culture that still mattered in Kennedys Camelot and Reagans Hollywood East. Starting Jan. 20, when President Barack Obama and Michelle move into the White House, the in crowd will include just about everyone who, since the dawn of the new millennium, has ever felt left out for coveting an invitation to the White House. Just listen to Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagans last chief of staff, who switched his support from John McCain to Barack Obama just 10 days before the election. It will be a more open White House, not just morning and afternoon but also in the evening, he says. The White House will once again become a prime invitation. The outreach will be remarkable. Youll see a renaissance of people coming back to the White House, even with a difficult economy, because people want our president to shine.
Standing at the hub of all that pent-up desire is Desiree Rogers, the president-elects cool, sophisticated, unflappable, future White House social secretary, a job she intends to expand to include the 10 million members of Obamas powerful Internet community. Armed with her Harvard Business School degree, and her considerable business experience, most recently creating an Internet community as president for social networking for Allstate Financial in Chicago, Rogers is thinking about ways to recast the definition of what it means to belong to a social A List.
We will keep the historical calendar of events, and then layer on top of those the events the president-elect and first lady want to host. There will be state dinners. I am sure there will be. How many, I dont know, says Rogers, 49, who is about to become the countrys first African-American social secretary. One of her ideas is to find a way to use the Internet to create special events that reach out to the whole community weve set up on the Internet. Not everyone can get to the White House, so we want to find a way for them to participate through the technology we have today.
There is so much momentum and enthusiasm. How do we continue that enthusiasm and convert it in a way that helps to push this nation forward? How do we take that push for winning and say, OK, now we have to fight for ourselves and our nation, she asks. Im very focused on creating environments where people feel comfortable to talk. Not everyone feels comfortable in a social setting. Sometimes, all you have to do is hook them up with someone else who is.
Rogers isnt the only one of Barack Obamas longtime Chicago pals interested in harnessing the power of White House entertaining.
The White House can play this incredible role helping people work on serious issues, says Penny Pritzker, a leading Chicago businesswoman, heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, finance chairwoman of the Obama presidential campaign, and co-chairwoman with John Rogers, Desiree Rogers ex-husband, of the inauguration. You want to bring people together who have different points of view. At the conference table, people work to solve policy problems facing our country. Around the dinner table, they are appreciating the humanity of everyone in the room.
Marty Nesbitt, a longtime friend and founder of the Parking Spot, a national chain of airport parking facilities, is also sure the new first couple will want to take part in the Washington community, especially at the Sidwell Friends School where their daughters are scheduled to start classes tomorrow. Im sure theyll be at soccer games, all kinds of family activities, says Nesbitt, who intends to stay in touch with the new first family. I am sure I will at least visit, says Nesbitt, who describes the president as an ordinary guy with extraordinary talent, a guy who likes to talk about college football, basketball, baseball, golf, and having fun with his kids. I see him all the time, every Sunday, at my house, or at his house.
Valerie Jarrett who, along with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, landed the top White House job of all the Chicago pals, has also done her part to help forge alliances with the local social establishment, lending an aura of heightened cachet to her cousin Ann Jordan. Former Hillary Clinton friends and presidential campaign backers, Ann and Vernon Jordan are now seen as potential future hosts of the Obamas ever since Jarrett asked to stay with them while she looked for permanent digs in Washington.
People who early on establish themselves as favored by the incoming president and first lady often set the tone for Washington society in a new administration. President Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, created an overnight sensation by stopping at the home of Joseph Alsop and his wife, Susan Mary, after attending five inaugural balls. In an instant, the Alsops, along with Josephs brother Stewart, climbed to the top of the social ladder, and a whole generation of Georgetown socialites was born.
Desiree Rogers made her leap even earlier, just weeks after the election when she gave a birthday party for her good friend Jarrett, the senior White House adviser who recruited Michelle Obama to work for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in the early nineties. Both Barack and Michelle Obama dropped by to say hello, and, overnight, everyone was talking about Rogers Gold Coast apartment on Astor Street in Chicago, which, incidentally, she says she has no intention of giving up.
Rogers desire to broaden the social firmament is unlikely to cause any grousing from Obamas top fundraisers, many of whom say they learned early in the campaign to step aside for the grassroots supporters who donated money through the Internet. Megan Beyer, one of the president-elects earliest Washington supporters and whose husband is a former Virginia lieutenant governor, recalls that during the campaign candidate Obama came right out and said how things can get awfully competitive and how wives of people who raise money for presidential campaigns needed to understand there was no big pecking order. There were some people who were used to being catered to, but because of all the Internet money and the big grassroots support, any swaggering you might have been tempted to do was really not appropriate.
One group of insiders who can still lay claim to VIP treatment is the Kennedys. Beyer campaigned with Ethel Kennedy in Southwest Virginia, a trip that evoked the memory of her late husband Robert Kennedys 1968 Poverty Tour through West Virginia. Obama was so grateful, Beyer recalls. He was flying into Dulles at the same time we did. He made certain that Ethel came to see him on the plane before he went on to a huge rally in Leesburg [Virginia, two weeks before the national election]. Hes good at these grace notes.
Beyer also points to another Kennedy family friend, George Stevens Jr., founder of the American Film Institute who hosted many Georgetown parties attended by then-President Bill Clinton. Stevens insists he would not presume to guess whether the Obamas will come to his house for dinner. But he is confident that the Obamas will put their stamp on the White House in their own way just as effectively as the Kennedys did. Theres a buoyancy in this town that I have not felt for a decade. The president and Michelle Obama will have an effect on our culture. And what they do in the White House culturally will have ripples throughout the whole country.
Exactly how far the new first couple can go in changing Washington society is still anyones guess.
The only societies ever to be classified as classless are communist and that didnt work for long, says Adele Alexander, an assistant professor at George Washington University whose husband, Clifford Alexander, served as the first African-American secretary of the Army under Jimmy Carter. Their daughter, Elizabeth Alexander, the Yale University professor of English and African American studies, has been friends with the Obamas since the early nineties when she and Barack Obama both taught at the University of Chicago. She accompanied Michelle Obama on the campaign trail. The president-elect commissioned her to compose and read a poem at his swearing-in ceremony.
There are so many inner and outer circles of power, and so many protocol demands, says Adele Alexander. How you do a state dinner? Officially, whom do you invite and who invites you? But do I think this will be remarkably egalitarian, remarkably more diverse than anything Ive ever seen in this city? Yes. I just cant see how it wont be different.
Just one more confirmation, dammit.
Is this what they call a fluff piece?
In the porn industry isnt a fluffer the one who prepares a man for his next scene?
Somehow I dont think Larry Sinclair will be gracing the White House social events.
The author of the article states that the Obamas are brilliant. The author is on drugs. The Obamas are the poster children for Affirmative Action. MaoChelle admitted she did not have the grades to get into Princeton; conversely, OPdumbo didn’t have the grades to get into Harvard (remember, he was at Occidental before he went to Harvard, and thus would have transferred, yet his grades at Occidental were just mediocre according to what I’ve heard). These two owe everything thay are and have to Affirmative Action, which is a racist program that discriminates against whites and Asians. I’m afraid we are in for a whole symphony of kneepad-wearing MSM building these two nitwits up to god-like atatus.
Should I sue you because there is no BAAARF ALERT on this garbage?
I hadn’t seen that before. Nicely done! I may have to use that.
Hat tip to you, sir!
They keep saying that, but I've yet to see it.
I doubt it will be pretty.
It sure is a good thing that the new President of the US is so brilliant! I mean, he's got a law degree from Harvard, not like that dummy who's been in the White House for the last 8 years, who only had an MBA from Harvard!
And Obama's so much smarter! We know that because his grades were so much better than Bush's... And we know that because... Well, because... Well, because the media and Obamas supporters keep telling us all how smart he is! After all, a Chicago politician would never lie or cheat, would he?
Please feel free to spread it far & wide...
They keep saying that, but I've yet to see it.
It's what movie reviewers refer to as an "informed attribute." That's when the screenwriters are too lazy to actually show the audience that a certain character is intelligent, charming, or witty, and instead simply have other characters repeatedly remark upon it.
Yes indeed! Exactly.
Third sentence and I gave up...
Who cares, outside of the cocktail circuit crowd, who gets invited to whose party in Washington?
Mark Levin had a lot to say about this guy, who he knows. And it wasn't good.
Anyone who ever called themselves a conservative and endorsed B. Hussein Obama is not and never was a conservative.
The author and the people who they interviewed probably don’t know this, but it makes them sound incredibly superficial, shallow and grasping. Liberals in a nutshell.
Well, it is very important in DC. Which tells you everything you need to know about your federal government. Who gets invited where has everything to do with knowing who is holding and wielding the real power. It’s disgusting. But we the people have created the royalty wanna-be’s up there and we the people are stuck with the results of our stupidity.
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