We're coming into some pretty serious stuff over the next few weeks, starting with our own Autumn Sandeen's coverage of the Angie Zapata hate crime murder trial tomorrow.

There's also New Hampshire's push for equal marriage next week, as well as Maine's public hearing for same on Wednesday, April 22.

But tonight I'd like to "wonk out" a bit with some Michelle Obama and happy White House stories. Starting with today's Easter Egg Roll:


More stories below the fold.The day went alot better than the Chicago Sun-Times would have one expect…

WASHINGTON — After a pitch-perfect start, first lady Michelle Obama’s East Wing is facing a controversy involving hard-boiled partisans.

The issue: changing the way tickets are distributed for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, which this year will be a nine-hour affair starting at 8 a.m. April 13 on the South Lawn.

The White House moved the distribution online, replacing the traditional “first come, first served” method that led many to stand in line all night on the Ellipse the weekend before the roll.

News of the switch triggered a passionate debate on my blog. “Having camped out since my baby was born (he will be 4 this year) I must say I am disappointed that this administration is breaking with tradition. My sister-in-law and I brave the elements (two years ago it snowed on us) in excess of 24 hours to ensure our kids get to experience the Easter Egg Roll at the White House. Not everything in Washington is broken, Mr. President. Some traditions will be missed,” Mom in Maryland posted.

Mrs. Obama wants to make the White House more accessible — she invited students to tend to a vegetable garden on the grounds, for example — so letting folks from out-of town be able to get tickets in advance seemed noncontroversial.

“Thank you Mr. President and Mrs. Obama for thinking of this idea of letting everyone across the USA have a chance to get tickets. … Other persons would love to have the chance of getting tickets,” Jackie from Durham, N.C., wrote.

A spokesman for Mrs. Obama said the new system has attracted interest from all over the country.

Feh. I much prefer the new system.

Speaking of the vegetable garden, there was even some complaints about that!

Michelle Obama planted an organic garden to promote fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet, but some chemical companies are worried it may plant a seed of doubt in consumers’ minds about conventionally grown crops.

“Fresh foods grown conventionally are wholesome and flavorful yet more economical,” the Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) wrote the first lady last month a few days after she and fifth-graders from a local elementary school planted the White House Kitchen Garden.

The garden is designed to produce fresh fruits and vegetables for the first family and White House staff and guests. The garden itself doesn’t give the group heartburn. The letter also congratulates the first lady “on recognizing the importance of agriculture to America!”

But MACA, which represents agribusinesses like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Crop Protection, is rather less thrilled about the fact that no chemicals will be used to grow the crops. The group is worried that the decision may give consumers the wrong impression about conventionally grown food.

The blog La Vida Locavore posted the letter last month.

Although pesticides or chemical fertilizers won’t be used on the White House garden, Camille Johnston, spokeswoman for the first lady, said Mrs. Obama wanted to plant the garden to promote the eating of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

MACA members just want a little love pointed their way: “As you go about planning and planting the White House garden, we respectfully encourage you to recognize the role conventional agriculture plays in the U.S. in feeding the ever-increasing population, contributing to the U.S. economy and providing a safe and economical food supply.

Good heavens, what next? Picking apart The First Lady’s clothing?

Yup. Let the pile-on begin!

“American fashion right now is struggling,” says Oscar de la Renta. “I think I understand what [Obama and her advisers] are doing, but I don’t think that is the right message at this particular point….I don’t object to the fact that Mrs. Obama is wearing J. Crew to whatever because the diversity of America is what makes this country great. But there are a lot of great designers out there. I think it’s wrong to go in one direction only.

He also took a jab at the outfit the first lady wore to meet Queen Elizabeth: “‘You don’t…go to Buckingham Palace in a sweater.’

Donna Karan took a more positive tone:

I hope and believe that this is just a moment,” says Karan. “And I hope to be able to dress her, and not only dress her but address her, sit down — I’m interested in her totality as a woman.”

And Vera Wang also weighed in:

“I love seeing young designers and their vision and how they grow and all of that,” she says. “On the other hand, of course, I wish she would consider some of us, because I think we also have contributions to make.”

Oh puh-leeze! Can we find a lil love for Michelle here? Oscar, an apology maybe?

UPDATE: Oscar de la Renta appeared on The View this morning to defend his comments–“Of course I’m jealous [she hasn’t worn my clothes],” he joked–and say nice things about the first lady. See the video below.

Azzedine Alaïa, the man behind the black dress Michelle Obama wore to the NATO concert in Baden-Baden, Germany on April 3rd, may be one of the happiest designers in the world right now. “I couldn’t hope for better,” he told WWD. “She has a very strong presence and has set a new style for First Ladies. I’m sure women will follow her style — it’s simple and elegant.”

But Alaïa is not very happy with Laura Bush favorite Oscar de la Renta, who criticized the ensemble Michelle Obama wore to meet the Queen on April 1st.

Alaïa, who designed at least three other articles of clothing Mrs. Obama wore across Europe, has a few choice words for de la Renta, telling WWD: “It’s not up to him to give her lessons; Michelle Obama is of her time; Oscar de la Renta is no longer.

Okay. It is time to set aside childish things…




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