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Barack and Michelle Obama roil Washington's social elites with their own eliteness

Democrats Barack Obama and Michelle Obama at a White house reception in October

While many Americans have been paying attention to all this election silliness and prognostications about which political philosophy will control which house of the country's Congress for the next two years, it seems major turmoil is building within Washington's self-proclaimed social elite crowd.

The elites are the elites because they give money to cultural and political things which, as everyone knows by now, buys them access to the powerful, who deny this.

In this case, the access is to the White House and its reputedly elegant social affairs, which is a....

...big deal among those unelected but rich permanent residents of the Capitol area. Many presidents have rewarded these well-dressed people with receptions and dinners and, most importantly, an executive residence receiving line.

These are called "grip and grins" because the donor grips the president's hand, they both smile and a White House photographer snaps a photo, which is often then signed by an autographing machine so it can hang in an office or den as framed testimony to eliteness -- and access.

Bill Clinton is a master of this phony protocol, providing brief spoken exchanges that send supporters away absolutely convinced he remembers and appreciates each of them. On the campaign trail, such photos with Obama could cost upwards of $20,000 at a fundraising dinner.Democrats Barack and Michelle Obamas make a grand entrance to a White House reception

But here's the deal: The White House's rookie rubes from Illinois don't understand how Washington works. Or they do understand, but they don't care.

Now that they're in the White House, the Obamas don't like the lines. And they don't like the press of ordinary people around them during mingles. So, as Women's Wear Daily explained so exquisitely recently here, they've ordered changes. No more tedious-for-them-exciting-for-others reception lines.

And in the actual affair's rooms, new barriers have been erected to keep some distance between the first couple and those who would approach them. No more mingling. Handshakes and quick chatter only for those up front right by the red rope or chain. Sometimes, only one Obama attends.

Needless to say, this has outraged many accustomed to preferred treatment but who don't want their names published because they still want to be invited. Others, however, are less reticent, still donate but don't bother going anymore.

“It just doesn’t seem very hospitable to me," observes Maureen Malek, a recent D.C. ball chairwoman. “It’s their way, and each president has his own way of greeting people. For some people, it doesn’t matter. They just love being in the White House. I like it the other way.”

The instinct of defensive presidential aides is always to blame security concerns and the Secret Service, which can't shoot back despite all its rapid-fire weapons.

But, of course, the reality of the White House security system is that, unless your name is Salahi, you've had to be OKd by the political folks, advance-cleared via Social Security number and background check, pre-cleared at the gate and metal-screened there too.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press; Pete Souza / White House.

 
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I read this article and I must say – How SAD is our reporting! How does a woman who grows up on Chicago’s south side, among poverty and gangs with a disabled father who struggles to get an education and a man who grows up with a single mother on food stamps and only 5 years ago pays off his student loans get branded as elite? Furthermore, when have blacks in this country ever been considered elite or practiced elitism? It happens due a paranoid and classist and hypocritical ways of thinking. Our last president grew up in the White House – as rich and privileged as they come and spent our coffers dry on his toys and whims while living it large, but no-one ever thought that he was elitist. This argument stinks of class chauvinism and jealousy! This is the insanity that we need to get rid of in this country if we are ever to move forward!!!! I condemn all those who make it their job to call those of us who have struggled and finally achieved the American Dream – elitist! Stop, look at the man in the mirror!!!!

One nation needs to change his moniker to Divided nation. Obama went to private schools, was raised by his grandmother who gave him everything. How does he know about his student loans and when they were paid off? How about Mr. Obama's mortgage in Chicago and Tony Rezko? Exactly what whims and toys did Bush buy? 100 dollar a pound waygu beef? Vacation after vacation? The Bush's went to their ranch (less than 2000 square foot home) in Crawford, Texas. Obama pays $50,000 a week for a place in the Hampton's. His wife spends over half a million of taxpayer money for a getaway for her and her girlfriends. How much is this upcoming trip to India going to cost? Hint, Air Force One costs over $11,000 an hour to fly. BTW, as an aside, BO said last night at a rally in CT that Bush never gave anything to AIDS funding and research. Actually, Bush gave more money for AIDS to Africa than anyother president in history, but I feel sure Divided Nation will deny that without even looking it up. The above article has nothing to do with envy or jealousy, just the fact that the Obama's don't like to mingle and go through the "grip and grins". Stop being so defensive. If it's true, it's not jealousy.

daisy...

GREAT response to OneNation! Thank you!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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