יום שלישי, 27 ביוני 2017

Trump Is Running the White House Like He’s America’s Mayor

By Jack Shafer

People who live near the Trump-Kushners initially didn’t receive such outreach or handwritten cards, and the oversight was noted. After published reports about how Ivanka’s neighbors were angry at the disruptions to their street—one irate Kalorama resident called it “a three-ring circus from the day that they moved in”—the first daughter showed up at several of their doors with a peace offering: two blue cupcakes baked by daughter Arabella, and an apology for the chaos her move to Tracy Place has caused. (“We love the neighborhood, and our family has received an incredibly gracious welcome from our neighbors,” Ivanka told the Associated Press in March.)

Superlobbyist Tony Podesta, the brother of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, who lives close to both the Obamas and Ivanka and Jared in Kalorama, said he hopes to host a neighborhood party this summer and invite the two couples over for pizza. “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to reacquaint the Obamas with the tamer Trumps.”


Political combat in Washington has always featured elements of ritualized warfare, where the city’s opposing tribes put aside their spears to nosh and network, in the service of the greater good of the establishment and its enduring values and interests. And presidents have been dissing Washington since Thomas Jefferson, who confessed late in life that his role in setting up the capital was the worst mistake of his political career. But the hostility between this president and This Town seems all too genuine—and altogether new in tenor. It’s common to hear well-known D.C. media figures describe Trump in terms like “low-class jerk” or diagnose him with maladies, like “serious personality disorder,” as one did at a recent party. Journalists are turned off by Trump’s tweets and statements calling the media “fake news” and attacking the legitimacy of their work. It especially rankles reporters that he usually doesn’t give the normal presidential disclaimers about respecting the role of the free press.

For many in the president’s orbit, bitter at the reams of negative coverage and never-ending leaks from inside their own government, the hostility is mutual. “The antipathy that a lot of the core Trump people have for the D.C. media establishment is authentic and real,” says Steve Clemons, Washington editor-at-large of the Atlantic.

Some have been more open, however, and there are signs that at least some strands of the Trump administration are willing to play by traditional rules. Conway often drops by cocktail parties in D.C., and said in an interview that she hasn’t sensed any hostility from the Washington set. She and her husband, George, recently bought an $8 million house off Embassy Row. “People have been very welcoming,” she says, pointing to her frequent polite interactions with female senators like Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. “They’re genuinely curious,” she says of people in D.C. As for others in the White House, she adds, “I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘I feel unwelcome,’ or ‘I feel excluded,’ or ‘I feel funny.’”

Political combat in Washington has always featured elements of ritualized warfare, where the city’s opposing tribes put aside their spears to nosh and network.

“Whatever Kellyanne says about alternative facts, she’s great to be with,” says Margaret Carlson, who has hosted intimate off-the-record dinners with journalists and politicians for about 15 years. “She’s a down-to-earth person that people like me have known for 20 years. She’s pleasant to be around, and George is friendly too.”

For many senior Trump advisers, one factor hindering their social lives is the constant need to hover around the president, who is known to shift allegiances quickly and has a long history of encouraging infighting among his aides. Even if they want to engage with D.C., Trump staffers find it difficult to break away from the constant fire drills at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

“Politely declining has become a very popular response for many of us, but I’ve also found that sometimes I’ll go out for something and then come back to the White House,” says Conway, who rejects the notion that Trump staffers aren’t especially social. “When I do pop in to an event at an embassy or someone else’s home, I tend to encounter colleagues there.”

“Many of them would like to get involved with the social scene, but it’s very hard for them to do so because they’re always at work,” explains one source close to the White House. “Right now they’ve been chained to their desks 24-7.”

But being overwhelmed at the office clearly isn’t the whole story. This year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner—a traditional opportunity for the administration to build and repair its connections even with an antagonistic press corps—became instead a headline example of Trump rejecting the relationship. Not only did the president skip the dinner invitation, hosting a rally in Pennsylvania instead, but other White House officials were instructed to stay away from the dinner and its associated events out of “solidarity.”

Sally Quinn (left) talks with Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell at a November 2011 book release party for Chris Matthews at the Hay-Adams; Tammy Haddad’s annual Garden Brunch ahead of the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner on April 29, 2017. | Paul Morigi/WireImage; Teresa Kroegen/Getty Images

At media consultant Tammy Haddad’s annual garden brunch, long one of the more exclusive invites to snag during that weekend because of its power guest list, no Trump administration officials showed. Guests at the party were prompted by a screen to, “Tell us how you participate in democracy,” and pins saying, “Democracy Hustles Harder” were passed out. But beneath the surface the attendees did seem to feel like the early sense of danger coming out of the White House had faded. “The existential howl is starting to diminish a little bit,” one brunchgoer said. Signs of a thaw were likewise evident at another annual party given that weekend, hosted by Atlantic Media owner David Bradley and attended by many reporters and VIPs. Defense Secretary James Mattis was there, and found himself encircled by reporters giving him their business cards and putting in requests for interviews. “He’s the rock star tonight,” one Democratic senator said of Mattis.

But it’s telling that Mattis is someone with his own longtime Washington power base, who has been seen as fairly independent of the president. “I have the sense that a lot of the people close to Trump are afraid to go out of the house or certainly the White House at this point,” says Gregg Herken, author of The Georgetown Set: Friends and Rivals in Cold War Washington. “I suspect that’s the fear for a lot of the people around Trump, that they don’t want to engage too much socially outside of their own circle for fear that they would be criticized.”


While the Trump experience may be anomalous in some ways, his combination of attraction to the worlds of media and Washington society—few presidents have paid more attention to what people are saying about him—and his resentments of the inhabitants of that same world have many historical precedents.

Perhaps no one was more at ease with Georgetown than President John F. Kennedy, a former resident of the neighborhood who kept many of his friends among journalists and the Washington upper classes. During his first hours in office, he left his inaugural ball to attend an after-hours party at the home of columnist and Georgetown social maven Joe Alsop, a shirttail relative of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But Kennedy was the exception. Most presidents are more like Trump, outsiders to the Northeastern social milieu who have looked at permanent Washington and its media-heavy social scene with deep resentment. “There goes Henry to dine with his Georgetown friends,” Richard Nixon sometimes would say when his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, left a meeting.

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