Opinion

Official White House florist ‘quits,’ gets lawyer; Michelle Obama blamed for ugly scandal

Scandal’s in the air again at the White House – and reliable sources say Michelle Obama is at the root of this one:

Washington insiders have been abuzz since Monday when the Washington Post’s Reliable Sources column reported that Laura Dowling, the official White House florist since 2009, had quit her job without explanation on Feb. 13 and had to be escorted from the grounds.

When the Post dug into the story, the “most transparent administration in history” reverted to form, at first issuing a statement from the East Wing that noted only that “Laura left her position earlier this year” but with no further explanation.

That was followed by a lengthier, but still utterly pro forma statement noting Dowling’s contribution to the White House during the six years of Obama and wishing her well in her future endeavors. (That’s usually the language corporations use when they fire someone and don’t want to admit it. The only thing missing was a “different direction,” which would be kind of tough to say with a straight face, florist-wise.)

As for Dowling herself, she declined to talk directly to the Post, but issued a statement through a K Street law firm called Sidley Austin that appears to specialize in government-regulation litigation. (The website boasts that its attorneys “work at the crossroads of law and policy, providing comprehensive regulatory, policy and litigation services to domestic and international clients in numerous industries.)

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Laura Dowling, when she still had a job at the White House. (Photo: Washington Post)

That’s not exactly the kind of law firm a disgruntled flower arranger would turn to after quitting her job – if there was nothing more to it than, as Dowling statement put it, she “resigned in order to pursue exciting new opportunities and explore my passion for floral artistry and design.”

As a general rule, when someone leaves a job to “pursue exciting new [unnamed] opportunities” in their profession, it’s been ugly. As a rock-solid rule, when there’s a law firm involved in issuing a statement about those opportunities, it’s very ugly indeed.

And very likely to get uglier.

Which brings us to the first lady’s apparent role.

In an update to its initial story, “Reliable Sources” column broke the news that Dowling had left because of deep differences with Michelle Obama over the appropriate floral look for the White House.

Well, considering the White House florist job is definitely an East Wing operation, and the East Wing is the first lady’s domain, it was a good bet Michelle Obama was behind it.

But it’s an ever better bet that the differences ran deeper than what bouquets should be gracing the dinner table the next time some visiting dignitary – or Al Sharpton – dine at the White House.

And considering the White House stonewall job when the Post asked about it, and the involvement of a high-powered litigation firm, it’s virtually a sure thing that there’s more going on here than esthetic opinions.

Sure, Twitter and liberal mediaites are already scoffing at the possibility of a scandal about something so silly. And no, it’s not an outrage on the level of the Obama IRS targeting conservative groups to smother free speech, or a smug MIT economist brazenly admitting lying about the most comprehensive, destructive federal law since the Fugitive Slave Act.

But the Watergate burglary would have gone off without a hitch if they hadn’t tried to tape that door latch – and Al Capone’s criminal record will show forever that all he got busted for was tax evasion. And if Bill hadn’t, er, misdirected vis a vis Monica’s dress, the history of the 1990s might have been different indeed.

In Washington, it’s the small slips that add up just as much as the big, big blunders.

Keep an eye on this florist business. Some Twitter folks already are.

But hard feelings aside, the jokes were plentiful too, like …

and …

But best of all, she was a …

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