Though this story does not rise to the level of importance as Gaza or the stimulus package, I just find this type of news most interesting. A bit newsy, a bit gossipy. Perfect.
Now as a new administration moves to town, another Washington guessing game begins: who will be able to snag the Obamas for dinner?
He might be choosing carefully. A new president’s first foray into the social scene in the capital can be heavy with symbolism, a hint of how the first couple plan to engage with unofficial Washington. Failing to do so could mean missing an opportunity to meet the press, make bipartisan overtures and advance the White House political agenda, as other presidents have discovered.
JIMMY CARTERand his wife, Rosalynn, arrived in the capital in 1977 determined not to socialize with the insider crowd, a stance that rankled Democrats in Washington.
“The Carters made the vow that they would never get tangled up in Georgetown dinner parties, and indeed they did not,” said Diana McLellan, the author and onetime Washington gossip columnist. “They alienated their base, and it created a huge dislike of Carter. It was catastrophic.”
Quickly after arriving in Washington after his election in 1980, Ronald Reaganand his wife, Nancy, enthusiastically made the social rounds, even giving a bipartisan dinner party at the (now-defunct) F Street Club. Mrs. Reagan’s social secretary Muffie Brandon Cabot regularly arranged luncheons at private homes so that Mrs. Reagan could make friends. “We were not going to be like the Carters,” Michael Deaver, a top Reagan aide who died in 2007, told The Washington Post in 1992.
In the weeks after his election, Mr. Clinton appeared at the homes of Ms. Harriman, the Jordans and Katharine Graham, then the publisher of The Washington Post. (It wouldn’t be long before the Clintons, feeling burned by the press, gradually became less social, mostly seeing only close friends and loyalists.)
Laura Bush spoke for her husband when she memorably said that they did not come to Washington to make new friends.
Adding to the mystery is Mr. Obama’s reputation as an elusive catch, a man who while serving in the Senate spent most weekends back home in Chicago, and even during the week didn’t seem bent on socializing. Perhaps to avoid the impression of coziness with wealthy donors, as a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama resisted attending fund-raisers in private homes, preferring that they be held in hotels, said Nancy Bagley, executive editor of the glossy Washington Life Magazine (and the daughter of Smith).
“It was fairly impossible to get him, even for the Democratic fund-raisers and the fat cats,” Ms. Bagley said. “You just couldn’t get him to your house.”
Several years ago, when Mr. Obama was a senator, Washington Life organized an event in his honor, which his staff promised that he would attend.
“They told us that he would be able to make it, but he had a late vote,” Ms. Bagley recalled. “Literally 10 minutes before the event, he had to send his chief of staff instead.”
“The Washington hostess always has to have a contingency plan if she’s going to have a dinner party,” she added sagely.
Mr. Obama is not entirely allergic to the intimate dinner at which socializing and political networking overlap — a staple of Washington life. At one small capital dinner in 2004, at the home of Ms. Marchant, Mr. Obama was seated next to Eric H. Holder Jr., a former Clinton administration official. They immediately clicked, Mr. Holder said later, and last month Mr. Obama named Mr. Holder his attorney general.
Ms. Marchant, who learned the ways of Washington while spending six years as a special assistant in the Clinton White House, predicted that the city is in for some social change.
“There’s a lot of unease and charting of new territory, because for so long Washington has been a social town where there are certain people who are the Washington social groups, the hostesses and hosts of the events,” she said. “And I think with the Obamas coming in, people are wondering whether or not those social pecking orders are going to remain the same.”