Posted Monday, Nov. 29, 2010, at 11:05 AM
Like Jessica , I understand why the first lady is keeping her socializing to a minimum, and I agree that it’s time we get over the whole Camelot ideal, not that this ideal actually existed outside of the public’s imagination. I don’t know why people have all these unreasonable expectations about how often Mrs. Obama or the president should socialize. I think some of the criticism is coming from folks who were accustomed to being invited to all the "important" parties around town and keeping company with past presidential couples. These so-called social powerbrokers now find themselves less socially powerful in the Obama era and they’re bummed about it. But the flip side of the story is that Washington’s social circle has widened and become more diverse because of the Obamas - and that’s a good thing. (Under Desiree Rogers, the ousted White House Social Secretary , the Obamas hosted some 330 social events in their first year at the White House; not just state dinners for foreign dignitaries and diplomats but various engaging and inspired, culturally enriching affairs. And they invited all sorts of people, not just the usual suspects.)
The premise of the Politico story , like the pining for the return of Camelot, is not at all original. The same people complain, on and off the record, to any Washington reporter who’ll listen, every time they’re not on the guest list for an Obama event. Given the challenges the president has on his plate right now and the hard work ahead to wrestle the economy back into shape and solve a slew of other serious problems both domestic and international, the last thing he , and we , should be concerned about is who he or his wife have lunch with or how many dinner parties they host or attend.
The Washington power set obviously did not expect that when the Obamas moved to D.C. the inner circle of friends they socialized with back home in Chicago would also be relocating here. The doyennes of the Washington political party circuit were jockeying to socialize with the Obamas even before the inauguration. Remember the stories at the beginning of the Obama presidency about how the first couple was very much about town; dinning here and there, taking in a Wizards game at the Verizon Center, attending performances at the Kennedy Center? That was before the onslaught of unfair criticisms, as Jessica noted , from some quarters about every and any type of socializing they did, from where they dined to how much they spent on travel and secret service protection. Despite the critiques, the Obamas still seem like a reasonably social couple, they just do more socializing and entertaining at home and away from the glare of the selective full-time critics at Fox News Channel who deem any socializing by the first couple as elitist and extravagant, and as a profligate affront to U.S. taxpayers. Who can blame the Obamas for choosing to spend more time at home or in the company of close friends rather than with outsiders miffed about not being insiders.