A week after downplaying “non-religious Christmas” plans at the White House, the Times returned to the issue Friday by downplaying official Washington's “feverish” “fuss” over the White House's downsized Hanukkah party.
At the first Hanukkah party in the Obama White House, a Jewish student choir will sing in sweet harmony, the two young children of a soldier deployed in Iraq will light a 19th-century silver menorah from Prague and President Obama and his wife, Michelle, will greet more than 500 guests in a celebration that is expected to spill from the State Room to the East Room.
A Wednesday New York Times story by reporter Rachel Swarns on Obama's first state dinner was an overflowing feast of praise -- over 1,000 words celebrating the Obamas.
Swarns is Michelle Obama's chief attendant when it comes to flattering coverage, and she provided it for both the first lady and her husband with a prose style so breathless you'd think there "had never before been a state dinner at the White House," as the Weekly Standard observed of the paper's coverage in the December 7 issue.
It is an old tradition, a White House dinner governed by ritual and protocol that happens to be this city's hottest social event. But at their first state dinner on Tuesday night, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, made sure to infuse the glittering gala with distinctive touches.
They hired a new florist, Laura Dowling, who bedecked the tented outdoor dining room with locally grown, sustainably harvested magnolia branches and ivy. They selected a guest chef, Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit in New York, an American citizen who was born in Ethiopia, reared in Sweden and cooks up melting pots of flavors and cuisines.
She has become one of the Obama administration's most visible surrogates on health care, announcing the release of $851 million in federal financing for health clinics, calling for tougher nutritional standards in the government's school lunch program and urging Democrats to rally around the president's efforts to revamp health care.
The high-profile emissary? Not Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, or Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health policy adviser. It is the first lady, Michelle Obama.
New York Times reporter Rachel Swarns, former Johannesburg bureau chief for the Times, is now working hard on the Glorify Michelle Obama beat, pumping out four flattering pieces in the last month.
Her latest entry is a brief in Thursday's edition, "A White House Effort to Aid Women and Girls," celebrating an executive order from President Obama creating a White House Council on Women and Girls. Swarns didn't challenge the liberal myth about women being paid 78 cents for every dollar men make (in that case, why don't companies only hire women and reap the savings?).
Swarns "reporting" could have come straight off a press release: