To read the latest Washington social scene story in Women’s Wear Daily would make a person think Washington is much more down to earth than it is. The gist is a refrain heard often around town: Those connected to any real power dislike attending the parties and most claim to be largely unimpressed by those they meet there.
While it’s true that many say this, it isn’t true that many mean it. Those who go and go relentlessly are there for a reason: to be seen. To be relevant. Because in Washington this stuff appears to matter.
Contrary to the story, parties here are not intelligent banquets of conversation for people to learn from one another. And stopping someone to “nudge” them to tweet about their thoughts is as self-absorbed as the banter that happens there. Somehow Tammy Haddad urging people to tweet is depicted as not self-absorbed. Huh?
The one dominating kernel of truth in the WWD story is that everyone feels the need to sufficiently suck up to her in tomes like this or dispel any notion that she is Party King in political Washington. A hard contender might be lobbyist Juleanna Glover. It’s not as if Haddad is known for being anything less than decent, even behind the scenes. No one deems her unkind. FNC’s Greta Van Susteren says Haddad’s parties are not snooty and have an “unscripted” feel and that she “enables all of us to do a better job.” But those who have attended the Garden Party year after year would beg to differ.
The story also fails to mention a current rumor snaking around Washington which has Haddad figuring prominently in NYT Mark Leibovich’s forthcoming expose on the inner-workings of Washington. Will it be the first — and only — to knock Haddad down a notch? Some feel the fate of Washington reality falls squarely on Leibo’s shoulders.
If you want to know something new about Haddad it’s her increasing propensity to impose rules on the media. That famous Garden Party? It’s no longer a relaxed afternoon of free form mingling where most anyone in media could wander in wearing a sun dress or a decent blazer. Instead, reporters who go are penned in like pigs and the famous guests are shepherded to a VIP room away from the masses. It’s also true that Haddad picks and chooses the reporters she wants to cover her parties, often telling the rest they are off limits to the press. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily — why shouldn’t she choose the reporters she wants? Why shouldn’t she shun those she doesn’t care for? But let’s not pretend a party is off record to all when it is to just some.
Whether Haddad is setting some new trend in socializing is highly debatable. She has been a social force for decades. She hosts her annual Garden Party and yes, this year the party moved location to the late WaPo Katharine Graham’s former Georgetown home. Hardly earth-shattering. She hybrids all over the place — the piece fails to mention that she TamCammed for Politico, not just The Daily Beast/Newsweek. As she was contributing to Politico she was flacking for NJ and avoided talking about it like the plague. Media observers have continuously found this to be an odd conflict of interest. In the story she’s just as evasive, saying, “I will be reporting for someone for 2012, reporting or hosting a radio show. This election is going to offer lots of real hybrid reporting opportunities.”
But the Garden Party, the social maven, her power and so forth? Blah blah and more blah. It’s an old story at best.
Read the story here.