Candidates running for President should know what they are getting into. The job responsibilities are pretty well known. But, current President Donald Trump seems to think his White House role and term-of-office should be different, given the way his administration has scrambled things like the annual Easter Egg Roll.
Some of the most visible and stately Presidential responsibilities are serving as chief executive of the federal government, delivering the State of the Union, hosting state dinners, appointing Supreme Court justices and ambassadors, signing bills, developing a federal budget proposal, and serving as Commander in Chief. However, there are other annual events that have been White House traditions for decades that have been on the POTUS calendar year-in, year-out. These include the annual Easter Egg Roll, Christmas Tree lighting, Thanksgiving turkey pardoning, Kennedy Center Honors, and White House Correspondents Dinner.
Judging by the two events that take place in the first half of the year, these easier Presidential tasks may be beyond this administration. Trump is bypassing the Correspondents Dinner, the first president to do so since Ronald Reagan missed one because he was shot. The plans for the Easter Egg Roll on April 17 seem to be as pulled together as the Obamacare replacement.
Planning for the Kiddie Caucus
The timeless White House Easter festivities date back to 1878 and President Rutherford B. Hayes. For nearly 140 years, schoolchildren, dignitaries, entertainers, and others have taken part in the popular gathering. Special commemorative wooden eggs are crafted and mixed in with the regular ones. Celebrities, favorite characters, and sports stars who would appeal to those under five feet are typically invited (e.g., John Phillips Sousa in 1929; Beyoncé, J.K. Rowling, Ariana Grande, and Shaq among those since then).
Come on. The Easter Egg Roll is not as complex as health care … oh wait. Trump acknowledged that he did not realize how complex that is, clearly the kiddie event’s complexity stumped the West Wing too.
The West Wing reference is part of the problem. There is no onsite First Lady to plan or at least supervise planning of events. Since she has not totally assumed the role, Melania Trump has not hired a full East Wing staff. Compound that with the delay in hiring a complete West Wing contingent and the high-profile event did not get adequate attention when needed.
The first problem was forgetting to order the eggs in spite of repeated reminders from the vendor. A late order for 40,000 eggs was eventually placed; 85,000 were ordered last year.
As for entertainment, the White House requested a visit from Sesame Street characters, which has taken place before. Yes, they invited the same characters whose funding is cut in the President’s budget (for the children’s sake, they will send one character). Maybe they will resurrect Oscar the Grouch’s badly toupéed apprentice Ronald Grump! No other celebrities, if any were invited, have been announced.
The Easter bunny also attends every year. At least someone in the White House has experience dealing with that. Sean Spicer, then an assistant trade representative, played the role in 2008 alongside President George W. Bush.
The dearth of entertainment might not be a big issue considering there will be far fewer attendees than before. Yep. Days before the event, the White House reportedly had not sent tickets to Washington-area schools that normally receive blocks of them. Several groups representing military families also indicated earlier this week that they were not contacted.
Melania’s communications director – who just started her job this week – claims tickets were set aside for school and military families. She did not say how many but acknowledged that there will be fewer attendees this year (will the President acknowledge that?).
The scrambled Easter Egg Roll seems to be another example of Trump White House team’s inability to hit their stride. This event offers a chance to show the President around happy children (other than his own family) and people who could never afford to golf at a Trump course. It is a missed opportunity to humanize Trump, which he desperately needs now.
By Dyanne Weiss
New York Times: The Latest Test for the White House? Pulling Off Its Easter Egg Roll
Vanity Fair: The White House Egg Roll Is the Latest Victim of Trump Administration Chaos
The White House: Easter Egg Roll 2017
Slate: White House Waits So Long to Plan Easter Egg Roll, Only Deplorables Remain to Fill Baskets
White House Photo by Shealah Craighead [Public domain]