News & Politics

Trump’s White House Was Competent Enough to Stage the Easter Egg Roll


President Donald Trump speaks at the White House Easter Egg Roll Monday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Monday’s White House Easter Egg Roll, the 139th annual iteration of the event since Rutherford and Lucy Hayes created it and the first under the administration of Donald and Melania Trump, did not end in the disaster so many were predicting just a week ago. Even as the Trump Administration continues to stumble over the particulars of governing, it appears there is at least one tradition it either can’t screw up, or—shockingly—is operationally capable enough to pull off without descending into a nest of national embarrassment and anonymous gutter-sniping.

Yes, it’s true the White House got a late jump on ordering the traditional wooden Easter eggs, failed to book any high-profile authors and entertainers to engage with the crowds, and wound up with fewer attendees than when Barack and Michelle Obama hosted the event. But the implosion so many Trump critics anticipated never arrived.

“Children and families roamed the lawn and stopped at picnic tables to make drawings that would be sent to troops overseas,” the Washington Post reported. “They could toss beanbags and practice soccer at makeshift soccer goals set up by D.C. United or try their hand at Sean Spicer’s job at a miniature press secretary podium set up on the lawn.”

That sounds, well, fine. But in this Administration, “fine” qualifies as a raging success. As long as nobody tripped on a wooden egg or got in a brawl, this year’s Easter Egg Roll seems set on joining Trump’s very brief list of accomplishments.

On the 88th day of Trump’s presidency, his team proved that it possesses at least the minimum operational competence to pull off the Easter Egg Roll. According to CNN, more than 400 volunteers—many of whom had worked the event in previous years—answered the call when the White House came asking. Families who scored the roughly 21,000 tickets approached the South Lawn with relative ease, kids spooned their wooden eggs along the grass, someone in an Easter Bunny costume (not Spicer) milled about the crowd, and the President and First Lady spoke to and mingled with their guests. Even the press office managed to send out a notice in time for media to secure credentials for the event, even though this reporter missed the application and was turned away after being told he could not just breeze through with his regular hard pass.

But what were we expecting to see after last week’s worrying reports? The President complaining about “fake news” in front of several thousand families? Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price stealing wooden eggs from children? The Easter Bunny falling off the stage and cursing in Russian? A face-painting booth sponsored by Breitbart?

None of that came to pass. No doubt this year’s Easter Egg Roll will go down as one of the more muted versions of the event. While the Obamas were able to draw the likes of J.K. Rowling, Janelle Monae, and Bradley Beal over the years, to say nothing of Beyoncé Knowles‘s surprise appearance in 2016, this year’s guests settled for a single Sesame Street character—Elmo—and being read to by Administration figures like Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After days of questions about whether this White House could, as the New York Times put it, “manage to pull off the largest, most elaborate and most heavily scrutinized public event of the year,” the day turned out dull and uneventful. That may disappoint those who salivate at any possibility of a Trump screwup, but as important as the Easter Egg roll is for the White House’s social calendar, any unforced errors committed during it aren’t terribly severe. The Trump Administration has, and will likely continue to, screw up on many fronts, but staging a relatively placid event in which children move wooden eggs with wooden spoons was not one of them.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.