White House Christmas Party, a peek inside

An Intimate Look at the White House Christmas Party

I was fortunate enough to get a late invite to the White House Christmas party on Wednesday night.

I know some folks don’t like these kind of events, but I remember hearing about the famous White House Christmas Party since I was a kid.  And when I Googled it, on getting last year’s invite, I was surprised that I couldn’t find any information  on the event itself (what to expect foodwise, what people wear, could I bring a camera, etc.)  So for that reason, and because I just find events like this fascinating from an American history perspective, I thought I’d give folks a you-are-there tour, for those who might be interested.

Had I gotten the invite earlier I’d have forced mom to come out for it (I tried to get her to come out last year, the only other time I’d gotten an invite to the Christmas party, but she wasn’t up to flying out, so I invited my sister Kathy instead, and this year was just too last minute, she couldn’t fly out with less than a day’s notice and drop everything at home).  Mom is 81 (or so) now, and doesn’t walk as well as she used to, so I’d like to be able to bring her soon (if I get invited again).  I don’t think my parents have ever fully understood my career(s), and I suspect meeting the President of the United States, albeit briefly, might earn me some “boy done well” chits with the ‘rents.  But since it was last minute, I asked my friend Matt, who has been pining for a “guest of” invite for a while.

Inside of Invitation to White House Christmas Party 2012

Inside of the invitation to White House Christmas Party 2012

The event starts at 6pm, but folks start lining up well before that.  This year, the weather was quite nice, upper 40s, so it wasn’t a problem waiting outside for 20 minutes or so.  The Secret Service does an amazing job processing 600 people in a short period of time. I was standing in line behind Steve Benen and his wife (Steve used to blog at the Washington Monthly and now blogs for Rachel Maddow), and didn’t even recognize Steve because we’d only met once in person! (He and his wife live in Vermont, damn them.)

You go through security, which includes a metal detector and some other sort of sniffer device, and your name is checked twice (like Santa), on two different lists in two different locations, just to make sure.  Then you walk down a dark sidewalk until you turn towards the East Wing on the White House and walk under one of the famous white porticos, to your left and right huge beautiful Christmas wreaths, all lit up with holiday lights.

Here’s a map of the ground floor of the East Wing and White House Residence, so you can see where we walked in, and where the various rooms are – the red line shows our path in.

The Library

On entering the East Wing, you’re greeted by one of the first of many gorgeous military guys. (And you thought the Israelis had hot staff.) You walk down a long hall, get your ticket for getting your photo with the President and First Lady (the tickets this year were color coded, different groups going at different times), then take a right then a left, and drop your coat off at the White House cinema (it’s not like the President can actually go and take in a movie at the local cineplex). You continue a few steps further and come to the first of the “historic” rooms in the East Wing. On the right is “the Library,” where I ran into Steve and his wife taking a break on the couch:

Steve Benen and wife at the White House Christmas Party 2012

Steve Benen and wife at the White House Christmas Party 2012

Steve and his wife crack me up. They had apparently eaten before coming to the event, out of concern that there might not be food! Oh man, did they miss something. (More on that in a moment.)

Across from the library is the Vermeil Room and the China Room. Across from the China Room are the stairs leading up to the second floor, where the actual gathering takes place. This is a nice map of the floor plan, first the ground floor of the White House “Residence,” the familiar center part of the White House that we traditionally think of as “the White House.”


The Entrance Hall

You go up the stairs to the First Floor of the Residence (here’s the floor plan) – the Obamas live on the second floor – and enter the Entrance Hall, where a Marine band was playing Christmas music.

The Cross Hall

You go from there to the Cross Hall (the famous hall where you see the President walking down on his way to a major press conference).

The tradition of hanging presidential portraits in this hall dates to President Ulysses Grant. The Buchanan administration first began the tradition of keeping paintings of presidents for the White House collection. The Grants added to this collection, and hung portraits of presidents from Washington to Lincoln in the Cross Hall behind a glass screen.

At that time, visitors could come to the White House on weekdays, enter through the north doors, and walk down the Cross Hall past the paintings to the East Room. With a note from a congressman, visitors could view the other “State Floor” rooms, such as the Red Room, where they could see the large Grant family portrait.

In 1881, incoming President Chester Arthur placed a photographic portrait of a beautiful woman in the Cross Hall and instructed staff to keep fresh roses on the table next to it. This caused a bit of a stir until they discovered that the woman was the president’s late wife Nell, who had died nearly two years earlier.

This is the Cross Hall, from the end towards the State Dining Room:


White House Cross Hall near the famous Kennedy portrait, as the White House’s version of Nearly-Headless Nick strolls by.

The Food

From there we walked down to the State Dining Room, where apparently I didn’t take any photos. there was a ton of food on a buffet, and a ton of dessert on another table. An amazing assortment – here’s my plate, but there was more food than just this, I was watching my intake so as to save room for dessert. (Yes, no photo of the State Dining Room, but a photo of my food – you can see where my priorities lie):

Dinner at the White House Christmas Party 2012

Dinner at the White House Christmas Party 2012

The State Dining Room & the Gingerbread House

Strike that, I do have one picture from the State Dining Room. It’s of the Gingerbread White House they make every year for the party. This year it had the original stones that was the White House before they got painted white (I believe that was after the Brits burned it down and the stone was scorched so they had no choice but to paint it).

White House Christmas party Gingerbread House 2012

This year’s gingerbread house, made to look like the old White House before it was painted white, and was simply the raw stone.

Here’s a floor plan of the First Floor of the Residence, which I’m describing now – again, red line shows our initial path:


The Red Room

Next up, on leaving the State Dining Room, is the Red Room.

White House Red Room, Christmas Party 2012

White House Red Room, Christmas Party 2012

The Blue Room

After that is the Blue Room, which is an oval, and I always thought was right above the Oval Office. It’s not. The Oval Office is all the way over in the rather ugly West Wing. The Blue Room had a huge, gorgeous, Christmas tree.

On June 2, 1886, Grover Cleveland became the first and only president to exchange wedding vows at the White House, and he and Frances Folsum did so in the Blue Room, accompanied by John Philip Sousa and the Marine Band.

Although decorated trees can be found throughout the White House at Christmastime, the Blue Room is the traditional location for the “primary” Christmas tree. The tree is cut to 18 feet and erected in the center of the room, then wired to a hook in the ceiling to ensure that it remains stable. Then it can be decorated with the year’s theme ornaments and decorations.

White House Blue Room

White House Blue Room, Christmas Party 2012.

The Green Room

From there you go the Green Room.

Thomas Jefferson, the second occupant of the White House, used it as a dining room with a “canvas floor cloth, painted green,” foreshadowing the present color scheme. James Madison made it a sitting room since his Cabinet met in the East Room next door, and the Monroes used it as the “Card Room” with two tables for the whist players among their guests.

The Green Room was the site of one of the nation’s earliest dramatic moments. With the stroke of a pen, President James Madison signed the nation’s first declaration of war in the Green Room. The War of 1812 led to the burning of the White House by British troops in 1814.

In this room, the body of young Willie Lincoln, President Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, lay for the viewing, and his mother Mary Todd Lincoln avoided the room ever afterward.

White House Green Room

White House Green Room, Christmas Party, 2012.

And here’s Matt sitting where we ate dinner, in the Green Room.

White House Green Room

White House Green Room, Christmas Party, 2012.

And here’s a beautiful Christmas tree in the Green Room, looking out on the South Lawn of the White House, towards the Washington Monument.

Christmas Tree, Green Room, White House

Christmas Tree, Green Room, White House Christmas Party, 2012.

The East Room

From the Green Room, you then enter the East Room, which is where the press conferences are held. Here there was more food (same stuff that was in the State Dining Room).

At times during the Civil War years, Union troops occupied the room. In 1864, the East Room was the scene of a large reception given by President Lincoln in honor of Ulysses S Grant shortly before his appointment as head of all the Union armies. In April of 1865, the East Room was again filled with people, but this time they were mourners surrounding the body of President Lincoln after his assassination.

East Room White House

East Room, White House Christmas Party, 2012.

And here’s a shot from the center of the East Room, with Steven Benen and our friend Kombiz, and significant others. Where I’m taking the photo is pretty much where the President stands when he’s giving his press conference.

East Room White House

East Room, White House Christmas Party, 2012.

While chatting with folks in the Green Room, I ran into Nate Silver, who I hadn’t seen in years – the last time I saw him he was just another blogger (not that he isn’t now, but you know what I mean). Here’s me poking a finger at Nate while his boyfriend snaps a photo of us:

John Aravosis poking Nate Silver at the White House Christmas Party 2012

John Aravosis and Nate Silver, at the White House Christmas Party 2012 (John is poking Nate in the head).

I also got to say hi to Judy Woodruff of PBS’ the NewsHour, who I know, and adore. I got to spend time with Judy a number of years back when she invited me and conservative blogger Mike Krempasky to Harvard’s Kennedy School to give a talk about blogging.  To this day, I’ve never had a better interview.  Judy was astounding. And I know we’re not supposed to say things like this, lest it come across as sexist, but I’m a gay man, and we appreciate beautiful women – Judy looked stunning.

And here’s a nice shot of Matt and the gorgeous centerpieces on the buffet table in the East Room.

East Room buffet, White House Christmas Party, 2012

East Room buffet table. (If you look closely, you’ll see ABC News’ Lynn Sherr to the right of an anemone-looking flower, on the other side of the table from Matt.)

Meeting the President and First Lady

Then Matt and I lined up to get our photo taken with the President and the First Lady.  Here’s the path to that:

You get in line in the Entrance Hall, and then make your way down the stairs back to the ground floor of the Residence, walk all the way down towards the Palm Room, then loop back and get in line to finally enter the Map Room:

The Map Room is so-named because it was used by President Franklin Roosevelt as a situation room from which to follow the course of World War II. It now serves as a private meeting room for the president or the first lady. But until 1929, it had historically been used as a billiard room by many presidents, and occasionally for doctors’ visits.

Then, via the Map Room, you enter the Diplomatic Reception Room (the oval room below the Blue Room), where you’re introduced briefly to the President and First Lady, get your photo taken and are escorted out in a matter of seconds. It’s so fast, it’s somewhat surreal. The President and First Lady get their photo taken with 300 invitees (and their guests), and with each person they take 3 photos, just to be safe. So that’s 900 flash bulbs in their face over a period of two hours. And keep in mind, this isn’t the only White House Christmas Party – there are like 12 of them or so. That’s a grand total of 10,800 flash bulbs going off in their faces. I don’t know how they do it.

The Center Hall, White House

The Center Hall, where we got in line to get our photo with the President and First Lady.

Then after we got our picture, we were escorted out into the China Room, where I glanced at the display case and immediately saw some china belonging to George Washington. I couldn’t care less about China. But that was cool.

We don’t have the photo yet – that comes in a few days by email (very efficient of them).  But here is last year’s with my sister Kathy.

john aravosis president obama michelle obama

My sister Kathy and me with President Obama and the First Lady.

Then back upstairs for some more food, where I ran into Arianna Huffington, who also looked (typically) gorgeous.

John Aravosis, Arianna Huffington at the White House Christmas Party 2012

John Aravosis, Arianna Huffington

Another nice photo of the Christmas tree in the Green Room, looking out onto the South Lawn:

Green Room, White House Christmas Party 2012

Green Room

And Then It’s Over

Then we got our coats and left, getting a nice unique view of the White House north side (typically thought of as the “front” of the White House, even though it’s really the back):

White House

It was a neat evening. I wish mom had been there, even though I think she voted for the other guy.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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48 Responses to “White House Christmas Party, a peek inside”

  1. Jim Olson says:

    He was the president of New England Wood Carvers at the time, and someone on the White House staff saw some of his carvings at a show. That gave this staffer the idea to have a tree with carved birds on it from all 50 states. Five carvers/artists from every state were selected, and my Dad was the one responsible for choosing the ones from Massachusetts.

  2. Don’t forget the puppies I ran over with my car, on purpose, a lot.

    I can see that engaging with you in the hopes of a fruitful conversation wasn’t one of my better ideas. I choose to keep working for my community and the issues I care about. You’re always welcome to join us.

  3. You win. The glass is half empty. There is no silver lining. The end of the earth really IS nigh. And the sun won’t come out tomorrow.

    I choose to think differently. On to other other threads.

  4. A reader in Colorado says:

    First, I think you’ll find that I value directness over nambi-pambi-ism.

    Your points about niceness and golden rule-ism and being nice to people and all the rest; I’m not having it.

    Because by your behavior, you don’t even believe it. You believe in being mean and vicious to those you see as your political opponents, you’re more than willing to engage in ad-hominem.

    And offtimes, that is deserved. But don’t try to tell me about niceness and treating people with respect and humanity. I believe in that, too, were I to shake your hand in person, you would probably not believe it was me.

    But politics is a vicious sport. And to class yourself as exempt from that is more than a little facile. And, I’m not on your side.

    You see, in my view, you’re first a Democrat and then a gay rights person. And you’re relatively right wing.

    I’m first a leftist, then a gay rights person, and not a Democrat at all.

    There are points when the golden rule is applicable. Running a blog or a newspaper. where you have a decided political agenda and when someone needs to make a point that is not consonant with yours, is not one of them. I am always one for not being unnecessarily mean. I take your point, but let’s not take this too far. There are some points that call for vicious political satire, which is as old as the human race and deservedly so.

    You are a legitimate target for vicious political satire.

    You may think you’re running a political community here. You’re not.

    What you are running on Americablog is not a community, it is a royal court complete with jesters, counts, vicounts and duchesses. I don’t mean that to be offensive. It just is. It’s an observation. It’s the structure of Americablog. You run this blog like a magazine or a royal court where you are the king. An often balanced king that permits a different point of view, but still a king.

    And, I thought you knew that ;).

    You run a stable of posters, pick the commentary you like run with that, mixed with bullshit about cats and whatnot – not that that’s bad. It’s Daily Kos without the commenters being able to make their own posts, the comments disappearing into nowhere.

    There is a point in a newspaper like medium for being mean, when the situation calls for it. And this blog is like a newspaper. You run it LIKE A NEWSPAPER. You may think you’re running a community, but you aren’t, really. You confine commenters to their comment areas. You point up comments only when YOU think they’re real or appropriate.

    You may even think you’re running a family. But you exercise far too much control to be a family. You’re more like a benevolent dictator.

    There is no real community participation here, only a way to post comments. You may have people with whom you interact personally and whose company you enjoy.

    There is a political point in being mean when necessary, and you know it. You engage in it yourself.

    I’m not going to say if you don’t like the heat get out of the kitchen. I apologized because my behavior to someone who is willing to go so far as to engage in a personal interaction with me reflects on ME. I shouldn’t be mean to you if I can make my point and not be mean.

    And yes, being a public political figure actually does mean that you are treated meanly. It comes with the territory.


    There is only one breed of activist, and that one hasn’t changed.

    You’re too close to your subjects, John. I know you’re very proud of your record, and in your place I would be too. And ditching language that you might call ad-hominem, you can’t do it.

    Saying, “by god, if I was going to be coopted, I would have been 24 years ago!” and stuff like that works only for you.

    You may think you can be an activist from the inside, but from the outside, for the entire election, you’ve been sounding more HRC every day. Remember, the criticism of the HRC, that you engaged in yourself, was clinking champagne classes and paying little attention to the gay community? Yeah, kinda like that.

    Being episodic about it helps with differentiating from the HRC, but not as much as you think.

    What you are doing is treading down the well worn path of the HRC. Tryiing to be private. Trying to be what you think of as constructive. Attending Christmas parties. Trying to be friendly.

    This isn’t anything new, John. It’s just you think you aren’t going to fall into the trap of the HRC.

    And even if you could do it, you oughtn’t do it. My opinion.

    Whether you are the same John or not, doesn’t matter.

    You aren’t believable to me,, and every head snapping whiplash inducing gyration you make, from critic to supporter and back again – never being both at the same time – you are less and less believable, not just to me. Don’t look at me – I’m the canary in the coal mine on this subject. I see it among the first wave, but others saw it before me, and more people are going to see it after me, if you continue doing this.

    You ought to stop and decide what you are going to be in the here and now. Democratic party pumper, or gay rights advocate. Because the two are not reconcilable. It leads to being a soulless cardboard cutout.

    The reason I took your point about being rude is that I’m better than that, not that you’re immune, or that you should be. truth is, if you don’t interact to criticism, then rudeness on a magazine level is what you deserve.

    And you’re conflating the personal with the political. I sincerely like you, but I am not part of your Republican versus Democrat groupie thing. And I’m not your family. And, you aren’t trying to make people you’re family. You’re pretending strangers you never knew are your coterie.

    And it’s a dishonesty to act as if you’re really trying to have a family here.

    And, even liking you, I believe in vicious political criticism as a matter of exigency when people aren’t on the same side. I’m not a conservative. And you’re not a liberal. You are something else.

    After years of observation, I’ve come to the conclusion, I’m not on your side. We have some political beliefs in common. Even as, you would be astonished if you met me at how polite and nice I would be to you.

    This isn’t a case of liberal versus conservative, and that you are willing to tolerate, begrudgingly, conservatives on your blog. This is a case where you have other people who aren’t conservative, having problems now too.

    You’re more than willing to ditch and disparage political groups who are at a disadvantage who are part of your political coalition (transgendered, for example). From my perspective, you act as a party person, defending Democrats at any expense of ideology, at any hint of conjured and debatable necessity – even while allowing selected people a different point of view (honestly praiseworthy).

    You get honest, and rude, whenever you think it will help you. But you don’t like being treated “meanly”.

    I apologized because there may be better ways than for me to treat you meanly. But make no mistake for one second that I believe you are in that position, or are even clean in saying that.

    Me, I’m a hippie. I don’t like this bullshit. I think that behavior, shifting and weaving weaselish.

    I reject your point that public figures ought to expect to be treated like long lost relatives in a political context. You ought to be attacked, yes, viciously, if and when you are doing something churlish, or dishonest, or people hurting.

    And as far as being constructive, and having a private conversation with the powerful – how’s that working out.

  5. You’ve raised a ton of points, but let’s hit a few of the important ones.

    The old and the new John Aravosis are the same guy. I’ve always believed that you need to be able to keep some conversations confidential. I have confidential conversations with the Obama folks, with HRC, with journalists, I’ve even had them with religious right activists. I don’t trust people who aren’t willing to have a conversation with you and not print every word on their blog. In politics, like everything else in life, sometimes you have to speak to someone about something and not release a transcript afterwards. It makes you more effective. Makes me more effective, at least. And has. People who talk to you and then run to their blog, or write a press release to tell the world what you just said, tend to be people more interested in themselves than the issue they claim to be working on behalf of.

    Elections. Elections are a tough question. And an age old question. Do we support the candidate who hasn’t fully come through for us, and signal that he never has to fully come through for us, or do we stay home and risk the really bad other guy winning. Everyone is familiar with the risks on all sides. My theory, and it’s a work in progress, is that I’ll hold that politician accountable up until a reasonable time before the election, and if they pass a certain threshold of support for the causes I’m advocating, I’m going to STFU and help them get re-elected, then pick up the criticism after the election (unless they do something idiotic right before the election, like calling some a “f*g” or recant their support for gay marriage, then sure, I’ll blast them even right before the election). But Obama came through more than enough on gay rights in order to merit re-election on that issue, if that’s your issue (and it is mine), so I helped him get re-elected, that was a no-brainer. And it taught his people a lesson that I can be an ass when they do my community wrong, but I can also be an ally when they do the right thing. I think that’s a great message, and lesson, to send anyone, especially if you’re an activist-type. And while your mileage may vary, it’s worked for me for years.

    I’m not sure who this other person is you’re describing, the one who’s never satisfied, always yelling, never thinks a politician has done enough, and publishes a transcript of every conversation he has with anyone involved in politics, but it’s not me, and never has been over the past 24 years I’ve worked in national politics in Washington, DC. I like to think of myself, and people like me, as a new breed of activists – perhaps not so new anymore – but who are armed with advanced degrees and advanced experience in politics, from the inside, which helps us be especially effective. And we generally are. I’ve been working like this for 25 years, so there is no old John Aravosis and new John Aravosis. They’re the same guy. And they’ve always liked traveling to Europe and meeting heads of state, something I’ve been doing since I was 25, so if any of this was going to make me sell out, it would have 24 years ago. And more generally, as I’ve already stated, if you want people to support, especially politicians, then you keep your promises. And my promise is that I’ll help you get elected if you support my issues, and you follow through on that support while in office, I’ll help you get re-elected. Again, it’s the way I’ve always operated and it’s worked for me.

    And one more point about your earlier comment about being mean. Yeah I do take comments personally because this blog is far more personal of a venture than the NYT or the Daily Beast. By their very nature, blogs are, in my view, a more personal form of politics and media. It’s why I jump in in the comments, it’s why I interact with readers via email, it’s why I post photos of my dog and Christmas cookie recipes and photos of my trips to the White House, or to Europe. Because to me the blog is about my relationship with the readers, in addition to simply being my take on US politics. And even if I am a public figure, it doesn’t mean if someone’s being rude, or launching ad hominem attacks, that it doesn’t hurt, or that those attacks aren’t inappropriate. I’d be hard pressed to just when you should be a jerk, less than civil, to someone simply because they’re a public figure. I think a good rule is to practice the golden rule with everyone, even public figures, because they’re human beings too, and acting civilly is pretty much a good thing no matter who you’re talking to, unless a change in tone is seriously justified.

  6. A reader in Colorado says:

    Finally, and well done. Maybe I’ve missed some articles, but It’s been a long time. The election has been over for a while.

    First of all, oh, please.

    I am being sarcastic again in this one sentence (fair warning) but don’t talk to me as if the Obama administration had not one single gay supporter during this entire election.

    As for the “never enough”, you’re conflating. Criticizing someone VOCIFEROUSLY on an issue or behalf of a community can be done at the same time as supporting them for election

    If an elected official expects you to be silent and support their election while shutting up on behalf of an entire population, that is that official expecting the ridiculous, such an expectation would be outright homophbic, and hypothetically and in the abstract, to accept such a demand, if made, either silently or explicitly, would be irresponsible in the extreme on the part of a well known community activist,.

    Until every gay person has job protections, until every transgendered person cannot be discriminated against, it is never enough. I meant every word I said. The conflation with otherwise supporting someone for an election is not one I made.

  7. Well, if there’s never “enough” a politician can do to keep their promises, then there’s never “enough” for us to support their re-election, and as a result, politicians won’t support our community in the future because they’ll know that our promises of support, of a quid pro quo for keeping their promises, are empty, basically lies – we’ll promise to support them if they do what we ask, and then when they do, we walk away. I think that’s counter-productive – if we’re going to make promises to politicians, if we’re going to vote for them to do x y and z, then if they do x y and z, we need to thank them for it.

    “maybe the rest of my entire term and I need not do anything ever again” is ridiculous.” – yeah it is ridiculous, thus my post of this morning:


  8. A reader in Colorado says:

    Bargains are only yours to make for yourself, though. And not even yours to make, even implicitly for others if you still want to occupy the position you hold – the position in which you cast yourself.

    There is no “enough”. An advocate and an ally should be expected to be an ally, not withdraw at things he can do at will. If you think it’s enough, you have a right to your opinion, but what you don’t realize, is that in your position, you have a right, that you’re seizing, to everyone else’s opinion.

    For Obama, or any supporter of his, saying “I said I support gay marriage if the states agree, and other people said I said I support gay marriage, that’s enough for some indefinite period of time, maybe the rest of my entire term and I need not do anything ever again” is ridiculous. And to hold up something like that on purpose is then turning tail and acting as an opponent.

    For myself, and speaking only for myself, I made no bargain, and you were never elected to make one on my behalf. I expect someone to be unequivocal on human rights. Not being so and turning half measures into bargaining chips is a mark of bad character on the asserter’s behalf.

  9. A reader in Colorado says:

    First of all, I am going to do something I’m not very well accustomed to doing, and sincerely apologize. I was disrespectful and catty, and that is bad behavior on my part. There is no excuse for me being hurtful to you as a person. So I will try to do better and be more direct.

    I will first explain, not excuse: While there is no excuse for being hurtful to a person, I continue to explain I tend to view this site as a magazine, where, in my opinion taking an attacking commentary personally is not expected. I’m not saying “you’re taking this too personally” but what I am saying, is that the runners and owners of magazines and newspapers often find they must be necessarily detached. You seem to take more personally comments directed at you and I need to take that into account.

    Bad behavior for me, and I need to be more forthright.

    Directly put, not sarcastically, I have observed that you are often more stung by comments than I expect you to be; I personally think you should take nasty commentary more in stride, since it’s directed at more John Aravosis the poster rather than John Aravosis the person.

    But you don’t, you seem to be personally stung, and I didn’t mean to personally sting. Truly. I meant and mean to come at you as the impersonal owner of a blog. I have no problem with making nasty commentary and I think it’s necessary for a public figure, as I see you as being – a public figure..

    That being said, I am truly, truly sorry.

    That said. I truly don’t have a lot of respect for what’s going on here lately, with perhaps the exception of Gaius Publius’ posts. That’s an OPINION.

    Since President Obama famously said he supported gay marriage, you said it yourself: You seem to me to have decided the President did enough on gay rights. You did. And I meant what I said: I’m sure the White House is rewarding you for your efforts on their behalf. Now, you can recognize that reward for what it is, or not. Or disagree with me that they’re rewarding you. But it certainly seems to me to be a reward. I read your blog carefully and often daily.

    Now, you can recognize they’re rewarding you, or you can say they’re not rewarding you, hell, maybe I’m wrong, and a cigar is just a cigar.

    And A does not automatically lead to B. Getting what seems a deliberate reward doesn’t necessarily mean the rewardee is automatically coopted.

    But the champagne glass clinking coupled with the Obama defense patrol really is eyebrow raising for me, coupled with the chumminess and support. I cannot honestly remember one word of serious criticism (meaning defenseworthy) in the last six months of Obama by you personally on gay rights. And I don’t mean the deliberately careful kind where you say, oh, gee, wouldn’t it be nice if.

    Pushing political people to do things really is a game of what have you done for me lately. And while I acknowledge and applaud many of your past deeds, and even your present ones, directed at people other than the Democrats or the President, I have noticed that the interest there seems to have waned, despite there still being work to do.

    ENDA and the Obama executive order is still work to do. no matter how much you like the President or Appreciate him, get off your ass. And chummy private conversations that we the people don’t know about, don’t qualify.

    On your history as an advocate, I respect that. I always will. You have no idea how much I actually idolize your past deeds. But stop resting on your laurels, drop the cutesy and start working again. Or, go.

    But, spare me. You want to go work in the private sector and, in your opinion, make ten times as much? Go ahead. You are doing this because you want to, and not because you are owed a respect cookie by the likes of me (it’s churlish to rest on past laurels and want that, just my opinion).

    I’m not holding the door, asking you to stay. I like you, and I have respect for what you have accomplished in the past. At the same time, go if you want to, if you’ve had enough of activism and want to be an Obama administration lobbyist in your later years, or whatever. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, as the saying goes.

    With regards to Pfeiffer, I really did ask, if admittedly and in an honestly catty way (sorry). I really wanted to know and I still want to know. And now that it’s oh so constructive, and oh so PRIVATE, And why not share those discussions in blog posts, or, hell, blog comments? Why not? The seeming reduction in volume since you decided, (you did, not me, and not everyone) that Obama actually said he supported gay marriage, rather than rephrasing his previous mealy mouthed noncommittal support of the status quo, is curious.

    So as you continuously seem to reference your PAST criticism of the Obama administration. I admit I watch your blog for signs of your former attitude towards Obama, because the job still is not done.

    If laying off is what you choose to do with Obama, because in your mind he’s done enough for two terms, it would be really nice if you would say so.

    As far as you attending a Christmas party, pfft. Now it is you being sarcastic.

    You know you don’t need anyone’s permission. People who don’t like your stuff, can just suffer through it or leave.

    As respectfully as I can put it, I have also noticed a distinct shift to the trivial here, and while not wanting to point fingers, I am kinda forced. Amongst your posters, I have noticed a certain ability to classify. There are the partisan apparatchiks, there are the economic blue dog centrists, there are the hypocrites, there are the young, there are the populist would be firebrands.

    And then there’s the gossipers and trivial fluff throwers, who, yes do that combined with an occasional serious post.

    And based on other people who also comment, I am not alone. If you want to do cat stuff and comment on facebook likes of defeated presidential candidates, that is also your affair. You don’t need anyone’s permission and you know you don’t.

    You saying “Can I attend a Christmas Party” is sarcastic. And making posts about cats, and catty comments about political enemies,and everything else, is expected.

    But some of us would like our serious issues fix. We get that, but the fluff and the Maureen Dowd aspect of the site with catty comments and team sports is getting a bit heavy. It’s getting to the point of going elsewhere. Many people have gone. I guess I’m one of the stragglers.

    And while you can go to as many White House Christmas parties as you wish, and clink champagne glasses with the rich and famous, while no doubt getting serious work done in your opinion., and you know it, I would like to see a bit more combativeness because there are still gay people needing things, your esteemed history aside. (Again, what have you done for me lately).

    And, hey, you say you talked to Dan Pfeiffer?

    Tell us about that.

  10. Hey, I wasn’t thrilled with everything the Obama four years brought, but I made a bargain – he does (enough) of what I want on gay rights, and I’ll vote for him. He did, I did.

  11. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I begrudgingly agree with you. I was very much prepared to not vote for President Obama. Then I thought about what he did for us on gay rights. I also looked at Romney and decided that he was one big mess.

  12. You are Green Room with envy :)

  13. I don’t know how the staff do it. And the security too. You don’t really notice the Secret Service much when you get near the President. It’s fascinating how well done, and downplayed, they handle his security – which is exactly as it should be, so as not to totally interfere with him and his family, nor to interfere with guests.

  14. Sorry, but President Obama came through for us on gay rights this last term, and he also did a decent amount for trans folks too, so I have no problem whatsoever supporting his re-election on that account, and even more so when you consider how hideous Mitt Romney evolved on gay rights. So I’m sorry, but the man earned our support, begrudgingly, but he came through with colors.

    As for your suggestion that I’m just a suck up to the President on gay rights, I suggest you give a call over there and suggest that to them, or to the folks at the DNC or OFA. I suspect they could use a hearty laugh after a long election.

    I respect a difference of opinion, and that’s why we even permit conservatives to comment here. I don’t respect people who come here simply to rewrite history in an effort to be mean to people. I don’t think that’s very nice, mature, or helpful.

    And finally, it was a cool party. And anyone who says they wouldn’t go is, in my view, nuts.

    Oh yeah, and as for Pfeiffer, I’ve already discussed gay rights proposals with him a few times in person, including the ENDA federal contractor protections, but I won’t be sharing that conversation in the blog comments. So I already did what you asked, a few times now. It’s too bad you just assumed that I hadn’t.

    Now is it okay for me to attend a Christmas party?

  15. HarpoSnarx says:

    Thanks for sharing your photos and the jaunt to 1600. We really do have beautiful presidential digs. I’m amazed at how the staff manages all that humanity in those dozen rooms. No wonder FrauYOUPEOPLE! was salivating to be first party planner.
    POTUS and FLOTUS looked like they belonged there.

    That MUST KILL the Goops, heh.

  16. LOL yeah Nate is great. So down to earth. And Judy really was amazing. I never loved her on CNN. But when I got to witness her manage our discussion/interview at Harvard, I’d never seen anything like it, she was astoundingly good.

  17. Not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but there actually were a number of really good people there, including Sam Stein and Ryan Grim of HuffPo, Steve Benen, Judy Woodruff, Ari Shapiro of NPR, Nate Silver, and more.

  18. A reader in Colorado says:

    No doubt the White House appreciates your support. Plus the silence on Obama’s not signing job protections for federal contractors who are gay was probably huge during the election season for them.

  19. Yes. I guess that isn’t wise is it.

  20. medium lebowski says:

    You know what looks the absolute most beautiful in all your photos of the White House? It’s seeing so many caring truth tellers filling and enjoying the space, with another four years to go!

  21. jimkhm says:

    I am green with envy!

  22. karmanot says:

    Wow exciting—wonderful photos. The Green room is so beautiful. Thanks for bringing us a long. Agree about your comments on Judy! And, good to see Nate Silver—-our geek man fan object!!!

  23. Surprised says:

    Do they really expect you to put your name, address AND Soc. Security # in an unencrypted email? Wow.

  24. karmanot says:

    Little chocolates totally make me space too!

  25. karmanot says:

    Even so John, you at the peak of your powers!

  26. karmanot says:

    Great story Jim!

  27. Oh wow that’s so cool. How did they find your dad to start with?

  28. Oh god I begged her. But you know moms…. I’d have to fly out there, just for two days, drop everything here, blah blah blah ;-) And I was like, to meet the President? But mom, to her credit, is unwowed by such things.

  29. SkippyFlipjack says:

    ok fair enough, my faith in you as a son has been restored :)

  30. Jim Olson says:

    A number of years ago, my father was selected as one of the artists to contribute an ornament to the Official Christmas Tree in the Blue Room. The theme that year was “Birds of North America”. He worked on three ornaments all summer and had to send them off to the White House by mid-September, along with all sorts of personal information for security checks. (He’s a wood carver. His work is amazing.)

    Mom and Dad were then invited to the White House for one of these parties. The President at the time was George W. Bush, and my mother had to warn him to behave himself and not say anything inappropriate. The ornaments were all beautiful, and they managed to catch a snap of his bird on the Blue Room tree. It is now in storage at the Smithsonian, with a real accession number and everything. I think it was my father’s proudest moment.

  31. I know. I can’t believe I forgot the desserts. I was totally going to photograph them. Get close-ups of the cute little chocolates. Then spaced.

  32. That comes in several days, by email.

  33. That wont’ come for a week, but since you mentioned it, I posted last year’s photo.

  34. I tried last year, I begged, she got all whiney. Thus invited my sister last year. This year they didnt’ tell me until Monday night, so mom would have had to get a same-day ticket Tuesday. Just wasn’t worth it, but I asked.

  35. I got to have a close encounter only once with Bo, after a meeting we had with Dan Pfeiffer and four other bloggers after the State of the Union last year. We left the meeting, and were getting walked out, when suddenly in front of us, there was Bo being taken out for a walk on the South lawn! You’d have thought we all saw a movie star. LOL The dog is stunning. I’d never seen that breed before, almost like poodle fur. Very dainty walk almost. Beautiful dog.

  36. Of course. Did you not see the caption under the photo?

  37. Argh! I used to be such a good speller before I started on computers.

  38. Suemarie says:

    Totally agree. But no photos of the desserts?

  39. Badgerite says:

    Love the little ‘Bo’ , the dog, by the gingerbread White House. Cool pics.

  40. S1AMER says:

    Sounds great! Shame you didn’t get to meet Bo, though.

  41. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Fun stuff, thanks!

    ..but dude, your mom’s 81! Bring her!

  42. stldem says:

    Thanks, John! Can’t wait to see the photo of you with the President and First Lady.

  43. Indigo says:

    I see Beau next to the gingerbread White House. Very nice all the way through!
    BTW, where’s the official photo of you and Matt with the Residents?

  44. silas1898 says:

    Is that the ghost of Eustice Tilley?

  45. Quilla says:

    Many thanks for this delightful narrative! I, too, will (probably…) never get an invitation to any White House enterprise requiring new clothes so your comments and photos are truly appreciated.

  46. jackson says:

    Peek Inside, not Peak. Sorry, it’s in the headline. Great pics! Thanks!

  47. Krusher says:

    Oooh, thanks, John! I’ll never get invited to a White House Christmas party, so I really appreciate the peeks and the narrative. I just scanned it real quickly–I’m saving it until tonight to read through. So nice living vicariously through you! Thank you for going to the trouble of relaying the whole experience.

  48. MyrddinWilt says:


    Did you notice the floating head in the picture of cross hall?

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