White House decorator Michael Smith paid for and organized Thursday's Four Seasons media lunch in honor of Obama socialite-in-chief Desiree Rogers, a guest's friend tells us. The president should be wary.
Smith does like to spend.
He's a high-profile decorator for Hollywood cinema royalty and New York financiers. His $1.2 million office renovation for Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain became a notorious symbol of corporate excess, featuring an $87,000 pair of guest chairs; an $88,000 area rug and a $35,000 "commode on legs."
The president took a swipe at that Smith job last month, declaring, "taxpayer money should not go toward renovating offices." But the week before, Obama had selected Smith to redecorate his own, government-supplied home/office.
Smith again evoked boomtime spending habits by throwing a lunch at the Four Seasons this past week. Not only did his choice of venue clash with his client/boss's populist image, sos did the fact that the event was held to honor Rogers, the White House social secretary who in the days immediately prior very publicly surveyed stratospherically-priced fashions with Vogue editor Anna Wintour and other high-fashion elites. ("Research," said the White House.) Guests like Barbara Walters and the editors of socialite titles like W and Town & Country were the very East Coast media elites Republican up-and-comer Sarah Palin slammed at the height of her popularity.
At least while businessman Smith shamelessly leverages his ties to the First Family and its staff, in public, and now in the press, he's paying out of his own pocket. Great. But there are 5 million Americans out of work, more than at any other point in the nation's history. If Smith wanted to honor Rogers, he might have demonstrated for her how to mingle with the culture's upper echelons more discreetly. Even out-of-touch New York plutocrats, after all, have learned to avoid virtually all public displays of status. Barack Obama has far more to lose than they; his people flaunt at his peril.