President Trump has canceled the White House media Christmas party. Let’s hope he and future presidents make this an annual tradition.
Howard Kurtz reports that the nixing of the decades old tradition was the latest victim of Trump’s contentious relationship with the White House press corps.
But it’s unclear why the event was ever deemed an appropriate interaction for the president and members of the press.
As Kurtz notes, the “annual Christmas-season gathering was a significant perk for those covering the White House, as well as other Washington reporters, anchors and commentators, and New York media executives would regularly fly in for the occasion … Journalists who attended the events, which featured a catered buffet of lamb chops, crab claws and elaborate desserts, got to roam the decorated mansion with a spouse or other family member, a friend or a colleague, adding to the invitation’s allure.”
In addition, “the biggest fringe-benefit was the picture-taking sessions, in which the president and first lady would patiently pose with guests and briefly chat with them in front of a Christmas tree, with the White House sending out the photos — copies of which were invariably sent home to mom. This would take a couple of hours, with long lines snaking across the building’s first floor.”
The press, during the Trump era, has rediscovered the importance of having an adversarial posture toward those in power. People in high positions and those who work for them are trying to spin, lie, deceive, and manipulate the public through the media, and members of the press should be able to maintain a healthy distance so that they can report dispassionately and fairly.
The Christmas party, however, is a spectacle in which White House reporters are almost transformed into political tourists. It was a nauseating display every year I’ve lived in Washington, and especially during the Obama era, to see reporters self-importantly posting their shots with Barack and Michelle in front of the Christmas tree. It reminds of me of the entertainment reporters who giddily boast about being on such and such movie set, snapping photos with some celebrity, acting as a fan of somebody they’re supposed to be covering.
In the Trump era, members of the media organizations have made a big show of their contempt for this specific president, so it would be kind of absurd to suddenly go to a Christmas party hosted by the Trumps and act like everything is normal.
Good riddance to this obnoxious tradition.