Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Washington Social Diary

The White House on Sunday, Jan. 11, from the south lawn, where the view from the corner Presidential bedroom is much as it has been for the past eight years.
By Carol Joynt

This week in Washington serves as the pause in the action, at least socially, as everyone who has a piece of the inauguration – even the few apolitical residents who will be caught in the crosswinds – gird themselves for the celebration typhoon that hits town on Friday.

Even with paranoia-inducing forecasts of monster security, crush crowds, epic gridlock and sunny but very cold temperatures, the effervescence of the occasion has put the thrill of history out in front. In other words, stop whining. Resolve to have a good time. This may never come our way again.
No time to be near the Hay-Adams Hotel unless you are an Obama. All these vehicles are police for Secret Service in an area that's on permanent lock down while the Obama family resides at the hotel.
Understandably, almost all the attention here is focused on President-elect Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, who move from the Hay-Adams Hotel to Blair House on Thursday. Anyone who attempts to venture near the Hay-Adams confronts a wall of security.

It’s a no man’s land, and a helpful preview of what the inaugural 25-block “security perimeter” will be like. Monday I received an 8-page outline of inaugural street closings and vehicle restrictions. It’s daunting and reason enough to park the car for the duration.
Jan. 11 - the view up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. In a week it will be a parade route.
They may look uncomfortable, but these are some of the best seats for the Inaugural Parade - the last leg before the White House stretch.
Almost finished - the Inaugural Parade review stand just outside the White House.
But while the flow is mostly Obama it is not entirely Obama. Behind the proud walls of the White House, George and Laura Bush have embarked on a week of “lasts.” Monday he held his last press conference. They are spending their last nights sleeping in the corner bedroom as President and First Lady.

Over time Bush will get one grade from history, right now expected to be a poor grade, but he could well get an “A” for handling the transition. It was his idea to integrate the incoming Obama staff as much as possible before January 20, with some of them already reporting to work at the White House, learning how the machine operates. It’s unprecedented.

Putting the finishing touches on the Presidential Seal on the presidential inaugural parade review stand.
Also unprecedented was the lunch he hosted for former Presidents, which actually went very well and should become a regular event. Who else do they have to talk to the way they can talk to each other?

The President and First Lady are using these last days to say good-bye and thank you. The farewells usually are small receptions, but there have been a lot of one-on-one moments, too, between the Bushes and staff, many who had their last day on the job this past Friday.

Over the next few days the offices will be re-carpeted, re-painted, computers re-wired, and other maintenance done in preparation for the new crowd. Last but not least are the household staff, the butlers and housekeepers and cooks and military aides, who may spend the most face time with the first couple behind the scenes. 

They are excited about the Obamas, but they love the Bushes, who went out of their way to be considerate about holidays, family time and other personal needs.  

We never see this side of the Bushes, and it might not change public opinion even if we did, but it is the side that prompts those close to them to say, “If you only knew…”
Flowers, fruit and Fox News at Cafe Milano.

While this coming week may be relatively subdued in terms of partying, the past week had a lot more going on than expected. Thursday evening offered the last splashy social hurrah for the Bush Administration – a party at Café Milano for Fox News superstar Brit Hume, who stepped down as host of the cable network’s evening news broadcast.

Fox News President Roger Ailes welcomed a swarm of republican high and mighty; Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (though claims to be an “independent democrat”), former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan; and a media hodgepodge, Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell of NBC, Charlie Gibson of ABC, Rita Braver and Bill Plante of CBS, the New York Times Maureen Dowd, and a whole lot of Fox performers, including Bill O’Reilly, Geraldo Rivera, Shepard Smith, and Hume’s anchor successor, Bret Baier.
Brit Hume blows out the candles on his Capitol cake. He often does this to Congress with his reporting.
Ailes was in fine form, assessing what’s up ahead for the democrats.

“All Obama’s trouble is gonna come from the left,” he said.

Harry Reid makes Sarah Palin look like Margaret Thatcher.”

Oh, Roger, if true, you know it gives Fox News plenty to chew on for the next whatever years.
Charlie Gibson of ABC with Brit Hume. Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Elizabeth.
Amy and Bret Baier. Brian Williams regales adoring fans at the Fox News party.
Old friends: Brit Hume of Fox with NBC anchor Brian Williams. Brian Williams and Brit Hume.
Bill O'Reilly. The life of the party: Fox News president Roger Ailes.

The Washington week ended on an elegant note, a party for Celerie Kemble and her handsome book, To Your Taste. She laughed about releasing a decorating book in the midst of a deep recession, but noted, “I’m lucky to be in D.C., where I know there is going to be some re-decorating.”

Her hosts were Katherine and David Bradley (he the founder of Atlantic Media Company), the guest list was Middleburg heavy and the conversation was more about horses and land and the stock market than the inauguration, but still it got mentioned in terms of who was staying in town and who was headed to Florida. Georgetowner Juliet Reid, for example. “Florida!”
Elizabeth Keffer, Celerie Kemble, Katherine Bradley and Gretchen Brevnov.
Celerie Kemble thanks the many guests for coming to her book party at Katherine and David Bradley's. David and Katherine Bradley listen to Celerie Kemble's remarks.
Guests listen to the toasts in the Bradley's living room.
Clockwise from above: The star of the Bradley's party, Kemble's book, which the hosts bought as gifts for all the guests; Jay Newton-Small, Matt Cooper and Juleanna Glover; Outside the Bradley residence on a cold and rainy night.
Bradley, as usual, gave a charming toast. “It was a rough day in the market,” he began, as the guests nodded agreement, “but you say, ‘At least David’s got it easy. He’s in the print business!” Yes, everyone laughed loudly because everyone relates to that kind of dark humor these days.

But Bradley focused most of his comments on friendship, particularly the friendship he feels for Celerie and her husband, Boykin Curry. Curry and Bradley have been friends for twenty years. “He’s been almost like a son to me. I have this sense when I am down to the last moment of devotion to a friend it would be to do something for Boykin Curry.” We should all have friends like that.
Susan Eisenhower, Deborah Lehr, and Erin Durkin. Juliet Reid and Katherine Bradley.
Claude Schoch and Stephen Graham. Cathy Graham and David Bradley.
One-time presidential candidate Dal Lamagna and Juleanna Glover, who is organizing a "Costco" inauguration party. Prentiss and Healther Tomlinson.
Marianne Powell and Samuel Reid. David Bradley and Boykin Curry.
The Bradley’s guest list included: co-hosts Elizabeth and Jeff Keffer, Gretchen and Boris Brevnov, Steve Shafran and Clara Bingham, Caitlin Sullivan, Richard and Kim Williams, Sam and Juliet Reid, Juleanna Glover and Dal Lamagna, Bill and Elizabeth Wolf, Keith and Marianne Powell, Walter and Franny Kansteiner, Byron Auguste and Emily Bloomfield, Peter and Theresa Clare, John and April Delaney, Karen Finney, Cindy Fornelli, Stephen and Cathy Graham, Robert Haft, Lisa Barry, Susan Eisenhower, Tim and Linda Clites, Lennart and Lena Lundh, Will and Tree McKinnon, Robert and Jill Monk, Prentiss and Heather Tomlinson, Michael Allen, Mark Ein, Joseph and Heath Kern Gibson.
The dinner buffet from caterer Susan Gage.
Hungry guests circling the buffet.
The dessert buffet.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol Joynt is the host of The Q&A Cafe, a talk show at Nathans Restaurant in Washington, D.C.