Fewer dinners mean mean meaner politics

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A must-read in the Washington Post from Lea Berman, White House social secretary from 2005 to 2007:

“When I worked in the White House Social Office, I was often surprised at how many officials – some serving in the same agency or in the same house of Congress – had never met. Members of Congress and administration officials may be photographed together, but many barely know each other if they’re in different parties. How useful those dinner-party connections seemed, with guests exchanging e-mail addresses and making plans to get together. Once, this cross-pollination happened at dinners all over the city. Today, however, political purists from both sides openly sneer at the idea of going to a dinner party. … Politicians say they’re too busy to socialize, citing the demands of travel to their districts, the increasing unpredictability of the congressional calendar and the absence of their spouses. …

“That fewer government spouses live in Washington means another source of political friend-making is lost, and it’s a loss as well for the city charities that traditionally relied on congressional spouses for fundraising leadership (in return for providing venues for gracious bipartisan mingling). With each new administration and new Congress comes coarser social behavior. During my tenure as social secretary, it was routine to call people two or three times to get a response to a White House invitation. We’ve come a long way from the days when an invitation from one’s president and first lady could be regretted only for a death in the family or travel abroad. … I urge Washington’s politicos to dust off their manners and instruct their schedulers to accept an occasional (non-fundraising) dinner invitation.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.