It presently is garden party season in Ottawa—the Speaker’s reception at Kingsmere was last evening, the leader of the opposition hosts at Stornoway tonight, there’s probably something at 24 Sussex at some point. The press gallery is in these cases invited to mix with the political class in smart casual wear and, at least in the case of 24 Sussex, an inflatable castle is provided for children.
Recently in Washington, Vice President Biden hosted a similar fete and subsequent pictures of the press frolicking with members of the Obama administration have apparently started something of a debate. The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder has gone to some length to explain his attendance. Glenn Greenwald, Matthew Yglesias, Jim Newell and Ta-Nehisi Coates add their thoughts. The following from Coates.
Consumers of news should ask themselves a very simple question when they see these sorts of events: What is the White House’s agenda? What is their interest in inviting a gaggle of journalists and their families over for a party? What are they trying to achieve?
By the logic of the press corps, these White House social events have no real effect on the news narrative. I find that interesting. There are some very smart people in the the White House. It would seem that by now they would know their soirée press strategy has been a miserable failure. And yet they press on. I wonder why?
Some full disclosure, such as it is.
I’ve been in Ottawa for approximately two and a half years now. I’ve not partaken of a garden party, though I’m not sure if that has to do with any specific ethical reasons, so much as a general aversion to socializing.
Two years ago, I participated in a forum on media diversity at Rideau Hall that included lunch.
I also once had dinner at Stornoway. Shortly after Mr. Ignatieff became leader each major media outlet’s Ottawa bureau was invited over for an evening. I was seated by Feschuk and, if memory serves, we most passed the time making juvenile jokes while the adults discussed more serious matters.