You know president Obama’s approval numbers are in a bad way when the fashion press turns on him.

Trade mag Women’s Wear Daily features a story this month on Obama’s waning popularity among D.C.’s elite social circles—the board members and bubbly-swillers used to mingling with presidents in relatively close quarters. (File under: how a fashion trade mag handles midterm fever.)

This, from Susan Watters’ “Obama’s Social Style has D.C. Grumbling”:

While the first couple seems only too eager to rub shoulders with the New York fashion, media and big-money sets, D.C. socialites are feeling snubbed, short-changed and officially dissed. There used to be complaints about White House red tape — now they’re complaining about the White House red rope.

White House red rope?

Instead of welcoming guests in a formal receiving line with a White House photographer on hand to help visitors capture their historic moment, or simply strolling through the Red, Blue and Green rooms chatting informally with invitees, the Obamas prefer to stand in a designated spot, such as one end of the East Room or in the Grand Foyer, safely positioned behind a red velvet rope. The kind of red velvet rope clubs use to keep out the riffraff. From there, the presidential couple smiles, chats, makes eye contact and waves as their guests jockey for position to touch their hands. No mingling.



“For a campaign rally, sure, that’s fine. But not for the White House,’’ says one museum board member who, like many, requested anonymity. “Every president — Bill Clinton, both Bushes, the Reagans — they would always have a quick receiving line. Each couple would be formally announced. A few words would be exchanged. But this President thinks he is such a rock star. It’s like he’s inviting guests to the White House just to snub them.”

Got to love the beltway—even a piece this innocuous features the typical anonymous shadow snipers. Joe Biden has two words for you: “Stop Whining.”

The story is not without some journalistic value, though. How’s this for an indictment of the beltway media?

And socialites aren’t the only ones complaining about the White House red rope. At last year’s Christmas party for the press, reporters who spend entire careers trying to navigate around rope lines started lobbying early to safeguard the treasured perk of shaking hands with the President and securing an autographed photograph.

Ugh. The only thing harder to hear than that is this, from The Real Housewives of D.C., featuring White House party crasher Michaele “What Red Rope?” Salahi, courtesy of The Daily Beast. Think of it as Morning Joe, live from the vineyard:

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.