Can I Still be Mr. Congeniality?

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When the New York Times‘ Helene Cooper published her piece about “a man” possibly succeeding Julianna Smoot and before her Desiree Rogers as the next White House Social Secretary, my life changed. Listing me along with Sam Kass, Carlos Elizondo (whom I nominated), Senator Christopher Dodd, Chris Wayne and George Stevens Jr. triggered a lot of snickering across DC and through much of the northeastern corridor.
One thing was clear though: The mere prospect of possibly being the next keeper of the White House list got me invited to many more of DC top’s mix and mingle events. I’ve enjoyed the pulls this way and that as people wondered who might run the next state dinner.
When word leaked that there was a man and a woman who were the final two being considered — I got even more calls about this, more invites to exclusive events, and more muffled snickering — particularly by staff and interns who actually work in the White House.
jeremybernard.jpgI told everyone that as far as male finalists, it had to be Carlos Elizondo, who is the brilliant manager of Biden Land and Joe & Jill’s social scene. And then winked.
But now Jonathan Capehart has burst my bubble of fabulous mystique and announced that the very cool, openly gay Jeremy Bernard, a pal of Jonathan’s and currently chief of staff to the US Ambassador of France, will take over this much coveted, powerful role.
Congratulations Jeremy.
I just want everyone to know that when I showed up to the White House Monday morning, 9:30 am, the 31st of January — the day after the Cooper story ran in the New York Times, some asked if I might be there to “interview” for “the job”.
Not responding, I quickly snuck into the Egypt policy wonks meeting in the Roosevelt Room with Ben Rhodes, Dan Shapiro, and Samantha Power and chose substance over parties (though Jeremy, keep me on your list!).
Fun times — and I agree with Jonathan Capehart, Barack and Michelle Obama made a superb choice.
As a consolation prize, can I maybe be the White House’s Mr. Congeniality?”
— Steve Clemons

Comments

27 comments on “Can I Still be Mr. Congeniality?

  1. Factory Coach Outlet says:

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    Reply

  2. Mr.Murder says:

    France, the country once rival to Lybia and Algeria? Thanks for straightening out those colonies, Hillary.
    Will Cuba enforce no fly zones to Florida the next time we have a murkey election result in Dade County?
    Has anyone ever suggested the increase of rhetoric has helped spiral oil prices to the point we are melting the economy here?
    Does anyone care?
    At least a Goldman guy is getting brought down on insider trading. A protected inside trader witness is outing anyone with anything near liberal leanings in the business community. We should all be happy.

    Reply

  3. questions says:

    Brad DeLong thinks it’s suffering without purpose:
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/02/we-are-live-at-project-syndicate-berkeley-three-times-in-my-life-so-far-i-have-concluded-that-my-understanding-of.html
    He thinks the reason the gov’t technocrats and politicians won’t simply let the gov’t take up the slack demand in the economy to maintain employment til we get ourselves out of this mess is purposeless infliction of suffering.
    He misses several points.
    First, there are people, lots of them, who really really take “moral hazard” seriously.
    Second, there are people, lots of them, who think that there is a natural economy out of the control of people.
    Third, there are plenty of people who think that suffering is good, unemployment is deserved — as long as it hits the other, and not the self.
    Fourth, there are many politicians who position themselves in retail politics such that they can’t get out of the corner they are in. There’s nothing rational at all about Scott Walker’s corner. He’s off the deep end, long past saving face, possibly he’s going to be recalled next January.
    Fifth, most of us look up with envy and down with shame. Aspirational economics demands different programs from kind economics or reality-based economics, or technocratic economics.
    Sixth, policy sometimes manages to solve actual problems in fair-minded ways with reasonable trade offs. Often, though, policy is a way of dealing with emotion, power, personal interest, loudest group preferences, factional divides and so on. So, no, we’re not necessarily ever going to do more than ease the corners of inequality through the policy apparatus. This is a popular sovereignty system with competitive elections, retail sales of personality, lots of systemically demanded pandering to personal prejudice and pecuniary power (!). Not so much technocratic heaven.
    Seventh, 9% unemployment is quite tolerable, especially when the U6 is around 17%! And as long as the unemployed are not dragging down the stock market. And as long as they aren’t rioting in the streets. And as long as they partially blame themselves.
    Eighth, there are plenty of golf courses, our lawmakers make a lot of money and have a lot of services and servants and staffers and they quickly forget how hard it is to live on 47,000 a year, or substantially less, like a few hundred bucks from an aging parent or a cousin.
    Ninth, there are a lot of people in this country. Sometimes they feel heavy. Not in the Michelle Obama obesity campaign way, but in the panicky, OMG, I cannot personally feed and house and clothe all these lazy irresponsible pregnant Cadillac driving state workers who make 29,000 a year or 48,000 a year. I just can’t do it anymore. I only make…. and I can’t manage this.
    We’ve created a personal government rather than a collective government, so every expenditure is immediate, comes out of my personal budget, and is the difference between my making it and not.
    No one seems to think through how little their lives would actually change if they had all their services and no taxes. A few thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand a year — what would you do with it — go further in debt? Most likely you’d have bought a bigger house on the block and you’d be further underwater…. Remember, there are plenty of people who earn more than you who are in deep financial crisis. In fact, we could, each of us, find someone whose take home pay equals our gross income (take home plus taxes) who is in as much trouble as we are at our lower take home pay. Some x thousand extra dollars doesn’t fix a thing. But we fantasize.
    We live in fantasy when it comes to money and we’re sure the next chunk will make the difference and no current chunk is helping, and every lost or taxed away-stolen chunk is ruinous. And the way to get back all that money is to make sure not a penny of it goes to a lazy unemployed person who lives in a big house on a nice street at your own expense.
    So, Prof. DeLong, that’s why technocracy doesn’t work. In part. Policy is a different world.

    Reply

  4. questions says:

    A congenial look at the Newtster from Jonathan Bernstein:
    http://plainblogaboutpolitics.blogspot.com/2011/02/tom-p-baxter-presidential-candidate.html
    The congenial way that Bernstein gently tosses out “snake oil salesman” and other high praise is testament to Bernstein’s congeniality!
    Also, useful read of dems and defense contracting:
    http://plainblogaboutpolitics.blogspot.com/2011/02/military-spending-follow-up.html
    Never underestimate the district’s job base in trying to figure out why contractors and the military in general get more than they want on a regular basis.

    Reply

  5. Cee says:

    I mentioned this before and want to post it since reading that some police have joined with the protesters.
    The title of this chapter is not a prediction, but a hope, which I will soon explain.
    However, the unexpected victories-even temporary ones-of insurgents show the vulnerability of the supposedly powerful. In a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, transport and communications workers, garbage men and firemen. These people-the employed, the somewhat privileged-are drawn into alliance with the elite. They become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls.
    That will happen, I think, only when all of us who are slightly privileged and slightly uneasy begin to see that we are like the guards in the prison uprising at Attica

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  6. questions says:

    And by the way, Creon’s speech to Teirisias is really something! I don’t think it fits under “congenial” but it is “learned” and “classic!” So that’s something. And it is reminiscent of a variety of political figures I keep posting about.
    “CREON
    Old man, you

    Reply

  7. questions says:

    A late HuffPo update notes that no one is being kicked out of the Madison capitol building despite an official 4 pm closing time.
    The police have learned, perhaps, not to incite crowds, even if the gov seems to delight in such things.
    The video of him on MTP is not inspiring. I managed a few minutes before I had to click away. He doesn’t seem particularly swift, and he seems to come packaged with pre-answers. He should be treated to a tougher session with a pushy journalist. The pushier the better. And perhaps one armed (is that too uncongenial a term?) with a whole fact sheet about unions, freedom to assemble, contracts and bargaining, reasonable pay, middle class life, and the fact that the unions already agreed to numerous give backs. Maybe employer “flexibility” isn’t the only good there is?!! And maybe we all need to stop using Georgia Pacific paper products, and a bunch of kinds of plaster and gysum, and whatever else the kochtopus has its tentacles in.
    Meanwhile, three cheers or more for the people of Wisconsin, for the people of Libya, for the people of Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, and anywhere else people are trying to get out from under thuggish regimes.

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  8. WigWag says:

    “For all those who don’t know, or like WW profess not to know, about how rancid Pamela Geller is: “Southern Poverty Law Center lists anti-Islamic NYC blogger Pamela Geller as followers of a hate group” (DonS)
    It’s fine that you don’t think highly of Pamela Geller, DonS; like the Southern Poverty Law Center, you are entitled to your opinion. But I do think that you should reflect on the fact that when it came to her most recent cause c

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  9. Paul Norheim says:

    “p.s. You really need to re-read the memo on the new civility.”
    Could you please say that again? The “new” civility?
    What’s new, is not the rules on civility; they were in place years
    before you started commenting here, and have been expressed
    repeatedly since then. What’s new is the collective punishment
    imposed also on everyone who respected those rules – the
    moderation: the slow pace by which every single comment is
    posted while dramatic changes happen with breathtaking speed
    in the Middle East – because you and a handful of others
    consistently challenged and abused those rules.
    p.s. Screw you (pl.) who triggered the moderation regime.

    Reply

  10. questions says:

    And…. for a final bit of congenial smart budgeting…..
    “An amendment offered by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) that would bar federal funding of Planned Parenthood overwhelmingly passed the House earlier this month, and two other measures that would expand restrictions on federal abortion funding are working their way through the House.”
    Woohoo, the dudes KNOW a bargain when they see one!!!! Cut aid to a large provider of birth control services for low income and young women, increase the number of unwanted, unplanned, underfunded babies, reduce abortion access, and cut funds for schools, nutrition, and anything else that makes life manageable for all the people who are going to be tossed out of work in our “new” economy.
    Why?
    Because it’s MORAL.
    And very orange.

    Reply

  11. questions says:

    More congenitally orange prose, or congenially orange prose…..
    “”Yes, this debt is a mortal threat to our country; it is also a moral threat,” Boehner says in the prepared speech. “It is immoral to bind our children to as leeching and destructive a force as debt. It is immoral to rob our children’s future and make them beholden to China. No society is worthy that treats its children so shabbily.””
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/2chambers/2011/02/boehner_congress_has_moral_res.html?hpid=topnews
    See, his speech writer got “moral,” “mortal,” and immoral in the same paragraph. Along with…….
    THE CHILDRENNNNNNNNNNNN and some leeches, robbing, the future, worthy, shabby treatment.
    THERE’S a speech writer! A witty writer!

    Reply

  12. questions says:

    The very congenial, very orange semi-pro golfer John Boehner:
    “”We have a moral responsibility to address the problems we face,” Boehner says in his prepared remarks. “That means working together to cut spending and rein in government – not shutting it down.””
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/2chambers/2011/02/boehner_congress_has_moral_res.html?hpid=topnews
    So we need a bi-partisan MORAL way to cut all services for the poor. Since the poor don’t vote, Congress will have quite the congenial time cutting food aid, heat aid, health aid, housing aid, nutrition aid, school aid, discrimination aid, legal aid, and anything else.
    It’s all moral because debt is a moral failing.
    He also says, in very orange and moral terms,
    “”This is very simple: Americans want the government to stay open, and they want it to spend less money,” Boehner says in the prepared text. “We don’t need to shut down the government to accomplish that. We just need to do what the American people are asking of us.””
    We don’t want the immorality of giving an orange cent to an undeserving non-orange person so we must take the moral wide stance to stamp out all transfer payments to icky lazy immoral people. The only moral thing to do is what the American people want, which is quite the orange position — cut aid to the undeserving (that’s everyone but me) and let ’em eat crumbs!
    And we don’t have to shut down the government to get the cuts we want because we know that Americans love every spending cut there is, so long as it’s tax breaks for rich people, and service cuts for non-orange people!
    *****
    And by the way, interesting kos diary about Fla state legislators’ importing some very high-paid former lobbyists into campaign staff positions at a salary higher than that of the elected officials who will now be working for those self-same lobbyists. I LOVE the Tea Party governing philosophy!
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/27/950267/-2-FL-Teabag-Lawmakers-Hire-60+-assistants-at-$100K+-each!!
    Read the URL!!!! That’s 2 lawmakers, each of whom would be hiring some 30 or 31 assistants!
    And the Gov himself, Rick Scott is a-hirin’ too!:
    “A few weeks ago, Teabag Goober Rick Scott released his budget, which guts children’s healthcare and education, along with cuts in every state agency sans one–his own. The bastard is requesting 420 staffers and a $343 million increase for his OWN budget.”
    Gotta love the Tea Party governing philosophy. So cut-backy, so austere-ish, so careful with the tax payers’ money. So certain never to let an orange cent fall into the hands of undeserving children or non-orange people or the lazy, infirm, unemployed, ill, or otherwise icky people of our generous and fabulous land of orange. WE ARE the most generous people on earth!!! And we’re moral too! And orange!
    The tears are rolling down my cheeks forming vast salty rivers, flooding the plains of the universe and helping to grow a mighty crop of hedge funds!
    It’s a new day dawning, America! Wake up and smell the stale pizza in Madison!

    Reply

  13. DonS says:

    nadine, I have never mentioned counterpunch, ever. You just make things up as usual which does nothing for your credibility.
    Dees is the messenger in this case, an imperfect one by you lights and the few critics you can dredge up. (by the way, since when have you wingers ever had anything against making money?) The message, which any person of integrity does not need even highlighted is that Pamela Geller trades in bigotry and hate — and by the way has done a good bit of self-promoting, empire building herself with hate as the message.
    Anyway, Geller is a very sick puppy, and you are welcome to her. I’m not interested in debating how hateful she is much more.
    As to civility, I’ll let the host be the judge of that. Your track record speaks for itself and since you have been the prime example of discourse that has resulted in comment moderation (since you proved yourself unable to moderate your propaganda mission) you have a lot of nerve to be wagging the finger.

    Reply

  14. questions says:

    A congenial look at Gov. Walker — gosh, he might run for pres! Look out Chris(t) Christ(ie), the slow Walker might beat the fa(s)t bunny!
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/26/wisconsin-republicans
    Lots of interesting details about Walker’s interest in bringing money to the district and doing nothing else. Downfall of services under his watch. Use of a busing program to subsidize schools.
    h/t nakedcapitalism

    Reply

  15. questions says:

    A congenial way to deal with the billionaire boys’ club when it gets too political:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/26/950183/-Breaking:-WI-Police-Refuse-to-Kick-Out-Protesters,-Join-Them-Instead!
    The police refuse to support the governor after he threatens to send trouble-makers into the crowds.
    Police don’t like riots, and they probably don’t like governors who encourage riots. Sometimes police officers get hurt during riots, and sometimes sections of cities burn down in riots. So why would a state’s chief law executive (the gov) want to encourage lawlessness….
    If you don’t have the cops and/or the military with you, you might have them against you.
    And to top it off, it would seem that “Anonymous” is also targeting the billionaire boys’ clubs of America:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/26/950243/-Anonymous-to-target-Koch
    If these subversions of the billionaire boys’ club hold up, it might just make the political system work a little better.
    Target was hurt when they gave money to notorious homophobe Emmer, and when business and politics mix more than shareholders want, or more than constituents or customers want, business gets smushed.
    It’d be good for a really broad education campaign on the US CoC and their money, and other corporate tools and their money.
    Geeze, how can we do it in the US? Ummm, Facebook and texting, rallies and marches…. It worked in Egypt. Unions, students, teachers, and people who buy Georgia Pacific toilet paper (middle America, this is you — Northern is a Koch-owned brand — you wipe your butt, they wipe out your union protections…..)
    Wonder if the US can sustain the energy for 18 days to shake the world.
    And of course, we should do it with the utmost congeniality. Especially since we do generally have free and fair elections already.
    (And by the way, who’s going to pay for the daily pregnancy tests, or maybe hourly, that the US will need to enforce in order to deal with laws like this:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/26/949116/-Georgia-Republican-wants-death-penalty-for-miscarriages
    Wonder if the sponsor knows how many pregnancies spontaneously miscarry before the already-born people even know about them…. Wonder if the sponsor knows anything at all…. I suppose that what should really happen is that all women simply stop working or doing anything save taking pregnancy tests. Gosh, it could be a real job creating industry!
    And don’t forget, “spontaneous” can’t be proven very easily.)

    Reply

  16. rc says:

    Oh, what a difference a day, and 1 vote, makes!
    “UN slaps sanctions on Libyan regime
    Security Council unanimously orders travel and assets ban on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his inner circle. (http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2011/02/20112271959190839.html)
    What’s in a rebellion?
    The Libyan mental outpatient leader for 30 years ends up in a tribal tiff with his fellow travelers and uses some heavy war equipment (but not white phosphorous yet) to pound a few alpha-male messages into their thick heads.
    Mean while his counterpart to the East, the Israeli gangster Netanyahu, continues the Jewish apartheid regime’s exclusion policy for the huge numbers of the ‘other’ tribes in that region, collectively known as the Palestinians, also using his military aircraft and equipment (and white phosphorous when convenient).
    In the first case, the UN security council is 100% critical and demands a change in modus operandi.
    In the second case, the same UN security council outrage is evident but Washington pulls a veto on the vote.
    How congenial!
    The humans in Libya will get to vote in a representative democratic government at some stage it seems.
    So, let’s hope the humans in the Palestinian lands also get to vote in a representative democratic government at some stage.
    Good governance for all?
    Not according to Washington’s current regime it seems.

    Reply

  17. DonS says:

    PS, nadine. Morris Dees notwithstanding, Pamela Geller is a scumbag nonpareil, and needs no supporting evidence to prove that. That you find her a decent human being says reams about you orientation. I always expected that that you were a fan; as you are a fan of Jennifer Rubin.
    You are a disgrace to Jewish humanism.

    Reply

  18. DonS says:

    “Pamela Geller has some nice photos up” (nadine) What a shocker. Pamela Geller doing a hit peace on someone who has done more defending civil rights in this country that Geller could even imagine. Or yhou, apparently.
    Great research nadine. We appreciate your unstoppable effort to tear down whatever is good in this country in the service of your right wing fundie, crazy, Israel Firster delusion. You should be grateful we are all observing a period of relative politeness here. Because your ilk is so sick you deserve much worse. Get thee hither to the promised land and be happy sucking up to your pool boy Bibi.
    Maybe you’d rather we went back to lynching blacks and putting Jews in ovens as you, out of context assert. Sometimes wonder if you are even a Jew because your lack of empathy borders on the surreal.

    Reply

  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    It would be nice to know why my last comment was deemed unworthy of inclusion. But, like the Wurmser comments, I doubt the explanation would be anymore explanatory than the two or three reasons I was given for the censorship of that particular thread.
    Perhaps I can take a lesson from Wigwag and Nadine, and simply use thinly veiled and smarmy insult, carefully insinuated and directed at the host, to assure myself that my comments will get past the cutting room floor. Or is ANY technique I use to underscore the insidiously hypocritical spew emanating from DC going to be excised from the debate?

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  20. questions says:

    Alexander Cockburn has nothing good and much bad to say about SPLC.
    I personally have no idea…..

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  21. DonS says:

    For all those who don’t know, or like WW profess not to know, about how Rancid Pamela Geller is: “Southern Poverty Law Center lists anti-Islamic NYC blogger Pamela Geller, followers a hate group”
    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/02/25/2011-02-25_southern_poverty_law_center_lists_antiislamic_nyc_blogger_pamela_geller_follower.html
    Of course Geller dismissed the (SPLC) Law Center as an “uber left” group. This would put her at odds with the majority of Jews who have supported civil rights work for generations. Unlike WW, I don’t find the idea of this sort of splitting of communities into haters and non-haters as entertaining ‘food fights’.

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  22. questions says:

    A fairly congenial way to understand part of the Wisconsin thing:
    http://tax.com/taxcom/taxblog.nsf/Permalink/UBEN-8EDJYS?OpenDocument
    David Cay Johnston explains that the amount contributed to health and pension issue needs to be understood the way tax experts understand things.
    The workers have a total compensation package. This package is negotiated and signed by the state and the worker.
    The package is then divvied up amongst the following: take home pay, pre-tax holdings for pension, and then health benefits.
    ALL of the money for benefits comes from the overall compensation package and the divvying up is done by some mix of state and individual preference. You can have more withheld pre-tax for pension, or you can have less withheld, and then have a smaller pension. The money is yours, though, as it comes from the total compensation package.
    I get the feeling that everyone who deals with the Wisc. issue picks a set of numbers that supports his/her position, and we get a fair amount of mixing of numbers rather than a clear narrative.
    I recommend clicking through to this one as it gives a reasonable way to read Walker’s rhetoric.

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  23. Cee says:

    Nope Steve. We need you doing just what you do now.
    Interesting to read that Samantha Power is back on the scene.

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  24. questions says:

    Well, my guess is you can find nicer ways to say this! And you have over time!

    Reply

  25. DavidT says:

    Steve,
    How could you keep this story, from a month ago, from us,
    your faithful readers :)? You’re so good at alerting us to the
    fun policy or non-policy interactions in your public life.
    Congrats at the mention and maybe those on the short list
    should be regularly invited to White House Social events (and
    perhaps this will help get you to soften up on our current
    president :)). How’s Samantha Power doing? She
    dissappeared from public view when joint tge White House
    staff and it was nice to see her name mentioned with the
    latest goings on in the Middle East. She’s one of my heroes.
    Have a nice weekend (and repeat after me, “Barack Obama
    is a terrific president (though unappreciated by so many loud-
    mouths). Barack Obama is a terrific president (though
    unappreciated by so many loud-mouths.” 🙂 :)).

    Reply

  26. Ben W says:

    Steve, you’re already DC’s Mr. Congeniality for Life!

    Reply

  27. WigWag says:

    As long as Mr. Bernard isn’t friendly with Tariq and Michaele Salahi we should be just fine. I do think that Steve Clemons would have been a better choice for the job. After all, there is simply no way that he would have let a couple as tacky as the Salahi’s sneak into a State Dinner. Steve would have spotted them a mile off and politely but firmly shown them the door.
    With Dan Shapiro’s posting to Israel there’s a position open for the National Security Council’s Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
    Maybe Steve can throw his hat in the ring for that one.

    Reply

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