Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Washington Social Diary: Inauguration 2013

The President wore white tie and the First Lady wore a dress designed by a long-time personal favorite, Jason Wu.
by Carol Joynt

In the end, the 57th Presidential Inauguration, America’s most spectacular, periodic advertisement for itself and her bond with democracy, came off without a hitch. For a moment, for a few hours, for a few days and nights in January, the dysfunction, the strife, the relentless disputations fell away, allowing this city to be its best self, giving the nation a face of happiness, hope and political resolve.

It won’t last, of course, but heck it was sweet while it happened. If anything this second inauguration of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden — probably precisely because it was the second — had a smoother, more relaxed and even bouncier feel than the first. (Literally, as Joe Biden bounced along Pennsylvania Avenue when the parade reached the White House).

President Barack Obama taking the oath of office at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration immediately after Vice President Joe Biden.
But then the first, because it was the first inauguration of a half-African American man as President, had by necessity to be weighed down a bit by all that history being made. There were also twice as many people who came to town four years ago. The smaller crowd this year, 800,000 to 1 million, was just as enthusiastic as 2009 and allowed for some welcomed breathing room.

Obama’s inaugural speech will  be analyzed microscopically by all the self-appointed experts in the main stream media, and I’m writing this before benefit of the Tuesday morning editorials, but for me at least it came across as equal parts eloquent, symbolic and politically strategic, with an underlying thread of “I know who I am, who you are and what I want to achieve for all of us ... if I can get some of these people standing behind me to get over themselves and work together.”

Almost anyone here can tell you that’s unlikely, but again, we can hope. The musical parts were moving and the poem at the end, from Richard Blanco, felt as if he and the President had enjoyed a mind meld, with the themes of one, of us, of our diversity, of our goals and being in it together, “facing the stars.” 

I particularly liked watching the President’s face. At the beginning of the ceremonies, the cameras showed him as he walked through the Capitol hallways in a phalanx of mostly men, who, with the exception of Obama, looked to be on their way to a root canal. But when he emerged into the light and onto the inaugural platform he beamed — and some of them did, too. That phalanx was made up of a bi-partisan committee of Senate and House members and led by the chairman of the Inaugural Ceremonies, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.

Later, after the inaugural program, as the whole group headed back into the Capitol, Obama stopped at the top of the steps and looked back at the hundreds of thousands of people who filled the Mall, most of them waving American flags. He looked, and looked, and looked for yet another moment, clearly savoring the last time he would have that view on the occasion of his own swearing in. Love him or don’t love him, he was moved by us.
The First Couple waves at supporters along the parade route.
A note about New York’s Mr. Schumer. Kudos for putting on such a good show. He may have a calling as an event planner in his life after politics. As he said about Kelly Clarkson’s singing of My Country, Tis of Thee, “wow!” Well done. 

I’ve been attending inaugurations on and off since 1969, when Richard Nixon was sworn in for the first time. Back then the ceremony was held on the other side of Capitol building and the security was maybe a third of what it has become in 2013. And in 1969 there were intense antiwar protests. It was possible back then to wander fairly freely around the Capitol, along the parade route and even close enough to the White House reviewing stand. You needed tickets to get up close, but today tickets are an absolute necessity and the security screening process can take hours. The inaugural organizers urged the public, including people with tickets, to arrive for the swearing-in as early as 7 am.
Security was extremely intense. This is a view of the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street, looking toward the EEOB and the White House.
An equally early start time was required to get a spot along the parade route, because as the different parade sections filled up they were then closed up and locked down. So as much as democracy was a theme of this inauguration, security was right up there, too. This was a Secret Service event as much as a Constitutional ritual. 

When an ABC News anchor, Dan Harris, asked me in an interview today what to make of the fact that there would be only two official inaugural balls and both in one location — the DC Convention Center — my reply was sincere: “The Secret Service won.” Meaning, it’s so much more controllable on a security level if everything is in one building rather than the President and First Lady zig-zagging around town to a variety of balls. Less costly, too. Still, I miss the many official balls and the zig zag. 
On Sunday, the day before the public swearing-in and parade, the public were able to mill around the just-completed Presidential reviewing stand. It was a beautiful day and an exuberant scene.
On the few occasions when I intersected with the security areas I found people to be generally all about getting-along. After all, since most people fly, most people now know what it means to go through a time-consuming security check. They know its imperative to carry photo I.D. They know there will be a long list of what’s not permitted on a plane and, in this case, inside the three-tier security perimeter.

The security got layered in slowly over the past four days. On Saturday and Sunday afternoon it was possible for the public to wander freely in front of the White House and to shoot “selfies” of their happy faces posed in front of the Presidential reviewing stand. To that end there was a sense of free-wheeling access, though nearby at Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street, tall fences were going up to cordone off sections of sidewalk. By Sunday evening, as I tried to drive from the Mall area back toward Georgetown, it was a maze of roadblocks as that area of the city moved toward post-midnight lockdown. I got where I was going, but it involved a lot of clever circling and back-tracking. Fortunately I avoided Constitution Avenue, which was bumper-to-bumper gridlock.
Signage (as if we didn't know).
Interestingly, there wasn’t the heavy limousine, town car and black SUV presence one might have expected. Sure, there more were of them on the streets than is usual, but it felt like a lot of the people who live here did their own driving or used public transportation. The valet parking at events was heavy with people waiting for that humble mode of  transport, their own car.

When I noticed that the on-demand limo service, Uber, was two and three times it’s normal pricing, it was an easy decision to do my own driving on Sunday evening. I was frugal in another regard, too. I didn’t invest in new clothing for the occasion. No one notices what other people are wearing at the inauguration, with the exception of the First Lady.

At indoor events it’s usually too crowded to see more of a person than from the waist up. Outdoors, well, everyone is bundled up in the cold and, I would hope, wearing long underwear.  At the Inaugural ceremonies the First Family looked good and color-coordinated in shades of plum, blue and lilac — and some pretty gloves. Michelle Obama wore Thom Browne and Reed Krakoff and J. Crew (some apparently pulled from her closet) and the daughters, Sasha and Malia, wore J. Crew and Kate Spade.

Mrs. Obama's gorgeous red inaugural ball gown — chosen, reportedly, from more than a dozen designer offerings — was by the same designer she used for her first inaugural ball, Jason Wu. The dress was elegant and understated and will be a stand-out when it joins the First Ladies dress collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It is a dress very much for now and in synch with a "scaled back" inaugural. 

Here a few snap shots, chronologically, from my involvement with the inaugural festivities. I chose based mostly on what would put me in touch with people I know, people of Washington, and events that were uniquely Washington.

• The Washington Performing Arts Society got a jump start with a Saturday brunch hosted, in part, by the group's board chairman, Reginald Van Lee. It was held at the sunny rooftop terrace of the Hay-Adams Hotel. It was nothing but the best food and wine for the 150 who paid $2,500 a piece to be there. With the almost spring-like weather (50+ degrees) guests were able to stand out on the balcony, which overlooks the White House, the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial and Virginia to the south. Audra McDonald sang in a tribute to opera legend Jessye Norman, who was the guest of honor. A number of the guests came down from New York for the brunch.
A bar stocked with premium brands at the Hay-Adams brunch hosted by the Washington Performing Arts Society: Pommery Champagne, Cakebread Cellars white wine, Steele Pinoit Noir.
Jessye Norman at a Saturday brunch at the Hay-Adams hotel hosted by the Washington Performing Arts Society in her honor.
The view from Hay-Adams rooftop.
• Two more brunches on Sunday. One was at Cafe Milano in Georgetown, hosted by the irrepressible Tina Brown, quirky Harvey Weinstein, actress Eva Longoria,  political consultant Mark McKinnon and Pamela Thomas-Graham of Credit Suisse. It was a sardine can of bodies, but no one seemed to mind. What drew a lot of comment was a large empty table in the middle of the very crowded room. On it were two signs: "Reserved" and "Harvey Weinstein."

Only Harvey was in the back of the restaurant, in a corner, talking on his cell phone. I'm told that later he joined the party but I don't know whether he ever occupied that large table. Someone needs to tell him that the Washington crowd doesn't sit down at a big buzzy party like that. Too many people to see. Too much small talk to share. 
Valets and tent at the ready. In front of Cafe Milano before the Daily Beast, Tina Brown, Harvey Weinstein, Mark McKinnon, Credit Suisse Sunday brunch party.
Harvey Weinstein's essentially un-used "reserved" table in the middle of the party he hosted with Tina Brown at Cafe Milano.
A wider shot of the scene at Cafe Milano.
At the Cafe Milano brunch hosted by Tina Brown and Harvey Weinstein, Brown's husband, Harry Evans, has a word with Madeline Albright over the steam tray.
• Back at the Hay-Adams rooftop, ABC News president Bob Sherwood and  vice president and Washington bureau chief Robyn Sproul hosted a serene and elegant brunch. Like Saturday, the weather was sunny and bright, but even warmer. It wasn't over-crowded, and guests took their time to enjoy the buffet, wine and champagne, desserts decorated with the U.S. flag and each other. The each other included a lot of ABC News stars and brass down from New York, including Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos, among others. 
Rachel Pearson, a member of the WPAS board, welcomes guests to their Saturday brunch at the Hay- Adams rooftop.
George Will, in the center (for a change) at the ABC News Sunday reception at the Hay- Adams following President Obama's official swearing-in at the White House.
A weekend of bipartisanship. Here, from the rear, as George Will poses for a photo with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat and chair of the Democratic National Committee, and her daughter.
Donald Graham, of The Washington Post Company, among friends at the ABC News reception at the Hay-Adams Hotel.
Flags in the food at the ABC News Sunday inaugural brunch and reception at the Hay-Adams Hotel.
• Sunday evening David and Katherine Bradley hosted buffet supper to give their party-hopping friends a chance to have a good meal before heading out to what would probably be a long and complicated night for many, trying to get from one event to the next, navigating road closures and heavy traffic. It was a very pretty repast, as the Bradley's are known for.

In contrast to the ball-scene, the guests were mostly in business suits and cocktail dresses. In terms of food, drink and the company, and the setting, on an ordinary night it would be all the party any one person would need.
The buffet at the supper party hosted by Katherine and David Bradley on Sunday evening before their guests headed off to balls and other parties.
Guests enjoying cocktails at Katherine and David Bradley's Embassy Row home.
• This year I attended only one ball and that was the first ever inaugural ball hosted by Washingtonian magazine and its publisher, Cathy Merrill Williams. That's where I work, as editor-at-large, and even though I was duty bound to attend I'm glad I did because the location, The Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum, is spectacular, the kind of venue where you expect a great big over-the-top, formal inaugural ball. More than 1,000 people attended, filling the stunning building, to dance, to eat, to partake of what appeared to be a dozen bars, including one right at the base of the model of the Apollo 11 lunar landing module.

The guests included the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr., entrepreneur Michael Saylor, DC schools chief Kaya Henderson, actor Ben Stein, and former AOL chairman Steve Case. The evening honored Bonnie Carroll and her Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), and so there were a number of military and their families in attendance. 
Washingtonian magazine publisher Cathy Merrill Williams at her ball, called Starry Night, which was held at the magnificent Air & Space Museum.
Joseph de Feo, Louise Jaffe and Harry Jaffe at the Washingtonian magazine inaugural ball.
A happy service dog at the Washingtonian "Starry Night" inaugural ball at the Air & Space Museum.
Partying among the rockets, the impressive Air & Space Museum setting of the "Starry Night" inaugural ball hosted by Washingtonian magazine.
A cool location for one of the bars, in front of a model of the lunar landing craft, replicating when man first landed on the moon.
• Each inauguration, Buffy and Bill Cafritz get together with Vernon and Ann Jordan, and usually another couple or two (this time Roger and Vicki Sant), to host the most exclusive private party of the occasion. It's not official, it's not political — in fact, it boasts of being "bi-partisan" — and while there are a few outsiders from New York and Los Angeles, the guest list is a well-edited roster of 300 or so members of the establishment who more or less rule the town, beginning with the city's mayor himself, Vincent Gray, and then one well known face after another from the worlds of politics, high finance, real estate, law, lobbying, the diplomatic corps, the White House, society and sometimes Hollywood.

This year it was Ashley Judd, who came with her friend Mark Ein (who is often identified as "the man who bought Katharine Graham's house," though in fairness there's more to him than that). It's interesting that Judd was there because she's said she is exploring a possible Senate run in Kentucky. As we all know it's not logical to scoff when an actor or actress kicks the tires on a political career. There is ample precedent of it working out. It's a challenge, though, as she no doubt was told many times on Sunday night. The party was at the Madison Hotel, once upon a time Washington's answer to the Carlyle, and it rolled on till past midnight. 

Mark Ein arrives at the Cafritz-Jordan-Sant party with Ashley Judd. They are good friends (photo by James R. Brantley).
I published the guest list earlier at The Washingtonian website (www.washingtonian.com), but I'm sure they won't mind if I give it an encore again here:

Mayor Vincent Gray, Valerie Jarrett, Jean and Steve Case, Robert Allbritton, Dwight and Toni Bush, Jeremy Bernard, Librarian of Congress James Billington, Italian ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, British ambassador Peter Westmacott, Wolf Blitzer, David and Katherine Bradley, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Brian Williams, Bill Cohen and Janet Langhart, Bill Daley, French ambassador François Delattre, congressman John Dingell and Debbie Dingell, Linda Douglass and John Phillips, Ken and Jackie Duberstein, Ron and Beth Dosoretz, Mark Ein, Ricardo and Isabel Ernst, Chris Dodd, Pamela Brown with her mother, Phyllis George, Nancy Brinker, Bob Barnett and Rita Braver, Mike Barnicle, Sally Quinn, Donald Graham and Amanda Bennett, Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell, Al Hunt, Gwen Ifill, Martin Indyk, Walter Isaacson, Michael Kahn, Virginia senator Tim Kaine, Chris Isham, Mandy Grunwald, David Gregory, David Gergen, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Ronald Gault, Maestro Christoph Eschenbach, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Paul and Carol Laxalt, senator Patrick Leahy, Jim Lehrer, congressman Ed Markey and Susan Blumenthal, Jane Stanton Hitchcock and James Hoagland, Melissa Moss and Jonathan Silver, Molly Raiser, Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, Susan Rice, Chuck and Lynda Johnson Robb, Heather Podesta, Bill and Ann Nitze, Ann Stock, Donna Shalala, Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, Gerald Rafshoon, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Jessye Norman, Laura Tyson and Erik Tarloff, Greta Van Sustern, Melanne Verveer and Philip Verveer, former CIA director William Webster and Lynda Webster, David and Sherry Westin, former DC mayor Anthony Williams, Virginia senator Mark Warner, senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Richard Haass and Susan Mercandetti, John Macomber, Ed Mathias, Polly Kraft, Debra Lee, Bonnie LePard and Bruce Reed, Julianna Smoot, Stephanie Cutter, George and Liz Stevens, Norah O’Donnell and Geoff Tracy, Toby and Myra Moffett, Maureen Orth, John Negroponte, Andrea Roane, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Congressman Doris Matsui, Willee and Finlay Lewis, John and Joanna Mason, Aubrey Sarvis, Spencer Abraham, Cindy Adams, Jonathan Alter, Adrienne Arsht, Elizabeth Bagley, Senator Roy Blunt and Abby Blunt, Johnnie B. Booker and Ingrid Saunders-Jones, Eli Broad, Lebanese ambassador H.E. Chedid, William T. Coleman, Shane Harris, Tom and Linda Daschle, Arnaud and Alexandra de Borchgrave, Jan Chipman, Huda and Samia Farouki, Richard Moe, Peggy Noonan, Catherine Reynolds, Hillary Rosen, Miles and Nancy Rubin, Fred Ryan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Bagley and Souroush Shehabi, Charlie Rose, Kathleen and Chris Matthews, Mary Margaret Valenti, Judge Anne Claire Williams, Steve Rattner, and Maureen White. Plus Jesse Jackson and Star Jones, who weren't on the official guest list but who were definitely there, though not together, and having a good time. 
Vernon Jordan, Susan Rice and Ann Jordan at the Cafritz-Jordan-Sant party (photo by James R. Brantley).
Toni Bush, Frank Raines and White House advisor Valerie Jarrett have a laugh at the Cafritz-Jordan-Sant party (photo by James R. Brantley).
Novelist Irene Dische and pianist Tzimo Barto, who were down from New York for the inauguration, at the Cafritz-Jordan-Sant party (photo by James R. Brantley).
Jessye Norman, Ann Jordan, and Liz Stevens at the Cafritz-Jordan-Sant party (photo by James R. Brantley).
Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt