With so many potential story lines percolating at the moment, I’m pretty certain that Julie Hirschfeld Davis wasn’t entirely thrilled to draw the assignment of covering the Trump administration’s preparations (or lack thereof) for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. But she certainly did as much as a human can reasonably be expected to do, essentially hitting a grand slam with her hard hitting and thorough exposure of a catastrophe in the making.
Here are some things her reporting uncovered. Sesame Street will only be sending one (unnamed) character to the event rather than its usual full complement. A typical White House Easter Egg Roll has about 2,000 volunteers. This year it might draw only two hundred volunteers. Last year there were 37,000 attendees at the event, but sources say that Trump will be lucky to get half that many people this year. Washington-area public schools have historically received as many as 4,000 invites, but they haven’t heard a peep from the White House. The same is true for military/veterans organizations that normally account for about 3,000 egg rollers. And, most importantly, the event is normally supplied with approximately 85,000 wooden commemorative eggs, but this year the Trump folks ordered them so late that they’ll be getting only 40,000.
How did this happen? What explains this rank incompetence?
Well, you might want to blame the absent First Lady.
Mrs. Trump, who lives in New York and has had a limited presence in Washington since her husband was sworn in, has been slow to hire a staff for the East Wing, which typically takes the lead on the Easter Egg Roll. She named a chief of staff and social secretary in early February but has yet to announce a director for the Visitors Office, normally the crucial player in the daunting execution of the event.
“You don’t understand what a beast this thing is to plan until you go and plan your first one,” said Ellie Schafer, who organized Easter Egg Rolls for the Obamas as the director of the White House Visitors Office from 2009 to 2016. “Every administration tries to put its own stamp on it, but the stakes are high because it’s such a Washington tradition, and people just love it and have very strong feelings about it.”
Ms. [Melinda] Bates, whose memoir “White House Story” documents the challenges of planning Clinton-era Easter Egg Rolls, said the event was a window — up to a point — into the competence of an administration.
“If you can pull off an Easter Egg Roll,” she said, “you can do anything.”
This isn’t all that Julie Hirschfeld Davis uncovered. She also learned that military bands will have to fill in for the “A-list entertainers like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Idina Menzel and Silentó who have performed for Egg Rolls past.” She verified that “members of Congress have not received word from the White House about whether they will get tickets to distribute to their constituents.” And, vitally, none of “the organizers of the Yoga Garden featured on the South Lawn during Obama-era Easter Egg Rolls [have] been asked to share their asanas.”
If all this wasn’t enough to satisfy your craving for solid reporting, she hit gold when she found out that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer donned a bunny suit for the Egg Roll ten years ago when he was serving as “an aide in the Office of the United States Trade Representative.”
Perhaps the only flaw in this piece is her failure to get Spicer on the record discussing whether he will or won’t reprise his bunny suit appearance this time around.
Yes, I know, the irascible nags will ask why Julie Hirschfeld Davis didn’t write about something important that they want to read about. The answer to that is because she wasn’t assigned to write about something important that they want to read about.
So, why did I write about this, then?
I wrote about it because it’s a great read and she deserves recognition for kicking butt on this chore.
If her editors did the sensible thing and sent her to Seoul or Moscow, we’d have plenty of good, important stuff to read.