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Jacob Heilbrunn

Jacob Heilbrunn

Posted: December 2, 2009 09:30 AM

The Twilight Saga: Does Desiree Rogers Have a Future?

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Forget Afghanistan. The question consuming Washington isn't troop deployments, but something far more significant -- the blatant failure of White House social secretary Desiree Rogers to deploy her troops to help protect the Obamas from insurgents like the Salahis. Both the New York Times' Maureen Dowd and the Washington Post's Robin Givhan lay into Rogers today for bungling the first official state dinner of the Obama administration. Along the way, lots of new details emerge about Rogers and her role in promoting what she likes to call the Obama Brand.

Rogers emerges as a figure out of Vanity Fair -- preening and self-indulgent, lording it over her table at the state dinner, while ignoring her own mundane duties such as ensuring that someone from her office was at the Secret Service check-point. According to Givhan, "The 50-year-old Rogers arrived in Washington this year to great fanfare, no small amount of it of her own making." She's quickly turned the People's House into Desiree's House. How President Obama handles this episode may provide some real clues to the rest of his presidency. Will he throw Rogers overboard or stick with her?

Dumping Rogers so soon after the ouster of White House counsel Greg Craig would be confirmation that underneath the relaxed veneer, he's a tough boss who doesn't have all that much loyalty to his employees. That's the kind of atmosphere that spawns lots of leaks and an everyone for himself mentality. It may all come down to whether or not Rogers accepts the invitation of the Homeland Security Committee to testify on Thursday about the state dinner. The real question: what was she wearing and when did she wear it?

The stakes could hardly be higher for Obama. It almost makes his decision on Afghanistan look like an easy one. He may conclude that the moment to oust the Harvard MBA-toting, Chicago socialite, Vogue cover girl, Commes des Garcons-wearing social secretary has arrived. If nothing else, it would propitiate official Washington and signal that the outsider phase of Obama's presidency has come to a complete terminus.