No surprise: White House press party canceled this year

In a move that shocked no one, President Trump canceled the annual Christmas party at the White House for the press who cover him. A formal announcement was not made but a member of the Trump-friendly Fox News team broke the news. Howard Kurtz reported that in a further escalation in the contentious relationship between Trump and the press, there would be no gathering at all. Traditionally, the party represented by the president foots the bill for the soiree. It is not paid for by the taxpayers.

Last year, President Trump and Melania hosted the annual event but Trump skipped the traditional photo opportunity with individual members. Normally, those in attendance stand in line for a picture with the president and First Lady. It’s a nice souvenir of the evening. Again, this was no surprise given the hostile relationship the president has with most of the press. Can you blame him? When over 90% of the coverage of the man and his administration is negative reporting, I don’t blame him for not wanting to fake it with a quick smile and pose while making a little bit of small talk.

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. At its peak, the invitation-only soirees grew so large that there were two back-to-back events, one for broadcast outlets and one for print organizations.

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.

But 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. Bill Clinton even posed for pictures with journalists days after he was impeached.

As you might have predicted, the usual suspects took to Twitter to feign indifference to the decision. They weren’t going to attend anyway, they pouted. It reminds me of the times athletes refuse an invitation to the White House after winning championship titles. They’d rather make a personal political statement than accept congratulations from the president. Here are a couple of examples of the response of the press.

The White House issued a statement to The Hill when asked about the decision.

“The White House Christmas press party was not put on the holiday schedule this year,” the statement read.

“However, we have accommodated members of the media and their families who have asked to see the holiday decorations by arranging White House Open House Tours for them.”

So, no lamb chops but they can get a tour and pose with all the beautiful seasonal decorations. That sounds like a reasonable compromise, especially given the snobbery of today’s press. The problem, to me, is that the press thinks they are the celebrities, the story. The shenanigans of CNN’s Jim Acosta and the open hostility of some of the others to this White House don’t exactly make them sympathetic figures. This year Time Magazine named four journalists and a newspaper as the 2018 Person of the Year. Though the executive editor was quick to deny this as a smack to President Trump, it is the first time this distinction has been awarded to journalists. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

The designation wasn’t intended as a specific message to the magazine’s runner-up choice, President Donald Trump, who has denounced “fake news” and called some reporters enemies of the people, said Ben Goldberger, executive editor.

Time cited four figures it called “the guardians.” Besides Khashoggi, they are the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death in June; Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for a year.

It’s the first time since the magazine began the end-of-year tradition in 1927 that Time has featured a journalist or recognized someone posthumously.

Hey, look who was the third-place finisher this year. If he finds enough dirt to throw at President Trump, he can win next year. James Comey must be so disappointed that he lost out altogether.

The third-place finisher this year was special counsel Robert Mueller, who Time indicated could move up in next year’s rankings depending on the findings of his investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.

I don’t wish death or imprisonment on anyone for simply doing a job. Lots of jobs are hazardous, though, and there are a lot of dangerous places in the world. A Texan has been missing in Syria since 2012. Now 37 years old, I rarely see coverage of his capture. Austin Tice is believed to be alive and the Trump administration has given new hope to his parents and family. That is something they didn’t receive from the previous president, the one that the press loved and turned a blind eye to any negative reporting on.

The U.S. government believes that journalist Austin Tice, missing for more than six years in Syria, is still alive, according to the Trump administration’s top official for freeing hostages.

The FBI is still chasing down leads, including from his fellow journalists, but the U.S. “has every reason to believe” Tice is still alive and being held captive in Syria, said Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien in his first public remarks on the case.

Say what you will about President Trump’s personality. He has been very effective in getting back Americans who have been held hostage in foreign lands.

Making celebrities out of journalists is a slippery slope. There is way too much of opinion writing passing for facts these days and President Trump calls them out for it. Maybe it’s time someone did. The lines have been blurred for too long. Time Magazine ironically proves the point.