If he hadn’t used a raviloi crimper on her suit, he’d still have a job today
The East Wing has traditionally been the “nice” wing of the White House, the decorous place where the social secretary, the calligraphers and members of the first lady’s staff plan projects, guest lists and the centerpieces for state dinners. But lately, there has been the kind of upheaval that rivals any West Wing intrigue.
In the last two months Laura Bush has hired a new social secretary, Lea Berman, and a new chief of staff, Anita McBride. She has also fired the longtime White House chef, Walter Scheib III, in the kind of exploding soufflÃ© of an exit not normally seen in the orderly reign of Bush II.
Most significant, Mrs. Bush has let it be known that she intends to give more parties in the second term than in the first, when she and the early-to-bed president developed a reputation as shut-ins who had no interest in Washington social life beyond old friends from Texas and Yale.
It’s taken four years for Laura to become drunk with power (as opposed to her usual just ‘drunk’) but now she knows she’s on the clock with only four more years in the White House (barring impeachment or a tragic pretzel accident) before returning to that hellhole called Crawford, and dammit, she’s gonna party like it’s 1849.
“The Bushes will be doing a fair amount of entertaining this term, I think, more than in the first term,” said Mrs. Bush’s press secretary, Gordon Johndroe, who is himself expected to leave the East Wing in the next months for a new job. “Sept. 11 changed a lot of plans, including the White House social calendar.”
See? 9/11 did change everything. And not just for all of those families who lost loved ones because Condi was spending her time practicing writing “Mrs. Condoleezza W. Bush, Empress of the World” on the backs of those annoying memos Richard Clarke kept sending over.
To some extent, the changes are part of the normal transition from one presidential term to the next, when people exhausted from four years of service retire or leave to make money in corporate America. Andi Ball, who had been Mrs. Bush’s chief of staff at the White House and the governor’s mansion in Texas, left to go home to Austin. Cathy Fenton, Mrs. Bush’s former social secretary, told the first lady last summer that she would leave at the end of the term and return to the home she had kept near Princeton, N.J.
But in a brief telephone conversation last week, Ms. Fenton suggested that all had not been placid in the East Wing. “I’m blissfully retired in the great state of New Jersey and away from all of this,” she said. “I wish everybody well, that’s what I can say. They’re all bright, intelligent, talented people who are not naÃ¯ve, and they know the environment is what it is, and that it’s always subject to change. It’s a very volatile environment. That’s our world, and we all serve at the pleasure of the president.”
Ooooooo. I’m guessing non-disclosure agreement with a passing reference to Gitmo for a certain social secretary if she shoots off her filthy lying terrorist-loving mouth.
The volatile environment would include Mr. Scheib, who was hired in 1994 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then first lady, from the luxurious Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. At Mrs. Clinton’s direction, he reintroduced American foods and wines on the culinary stage of the White House. (Mamie Eisenhower once had her favorite apple brown Betty listed on a state dinner dessert menu as pomme de brune, a practice that only intensified under the Francophile Kennedys.)
Mr. Scheib had no comment about his departure last week, but in an interview earlier this month with The New York Times he said he and Mrs. Bush had disagreed on approach. “We’ve been trying to find a way to satisfy the first lady’s stylistic requirements, and it has been difficult,” Mr. Scheib said. “Basically I was not successful in my attempt.”
Because, no matter how hard you try, you can’t introduce rum into everything you cook.
As part of the new order, the Bushes are having a Valentine’s Day dinner today for 60 guests in the Blue Room, an upgrade from the modest Valentine’s party they had in the private quarters last year for old Texas friends. The dress is black tie, a departure from the Austin casual preferred by the president. The guest list includes Jack Valenti, the former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, and Leo Daly, the architect of the Italian Embassy and a neighbor of the Bermans. Herbie Hancock will entertain.
You know, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Laura pop-n-lock to Rockit