“Will there be a White House media Christmas party this year?” Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman, and Daniel Lippman write in Wednesday’s Politico Playbook. “We hear likely not.” My coworker Brittany Shepherd, who possesses a hard pass to cover the White House, tells me she hears the same thing.
There are umpteen reasons to ditch a party based on the supposition that we’re all friends once the 5 o’clock whistle blows. Last year’s party began with twin embarrassments: CNN ostentatiously declaring it wouldn’t attend the affair, followed by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeting “Christmas comes early!” in response. The administration also snubbed frequent press-room antagonists April Ryan and Brian Karem and scheduled the event for 2 PM, a time that made it difficult for people to bring their families, as in past years. President Trump declined to pose for photos with the press, which in retrospect everyone seemed to agree was a relief.
The tradition was appalling before we had an administration that could so soundly screw up even this soirée. Take Trump out of the picture and it would still be one of those moments of performative Washington civility that could pull double duty as one of his campaign ads: Observe the elites yukking it up while the rest of the country withers. The political operative Tim Miller–yes, him–told the New York Times last year that in previous years, “photos of journalists blushing and chumming with the Obamas was cringe-worthy.”
Miller is absolutely right about the ickiness. Does skipping this bash mean you shouldn’t ever speak to your sources outside of the office? Of course not. There’s nothing stopping people who cover the White House from getting together with people who work there to swap Instant Pot recipes. (Here are five ideas for places that would be great for such a get-together!) But institutionalizing such an inherently awkward exchange contributes to precisely the same acid rot that’s finally eaten away the stinking veneer of events like the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Friends, we must never forget the 2007 Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner when David Gregory danced while Karl Rove “rapped.”
These lighthearted antics took place a few years after the Washington press corps abetted the Bush administration’s rush into a bogus war that we’re still fighting, then won reelection after trying to convince the US that gay marriage would end civilization. Gripping and grinning with Trump’s administration or any other represents the same moral compromise. Do your work. Socialize with family and/or people who are actually your friends. And don’t mourn the White House not throwing a holiday party for media: It’s quite unlikely news will be made in that room, and you can get eggnog just about anywhere.