Like a snubbed diva, President Bush turned his back on the entertainment industry’s biggest night by throwing his own bash at the White House for the nation’s governors on the same evening as the Academy Awards. But instead of Oscars and $30,000 gift bags, the governors set their sights on other statuettes to take home, as evidenced by lobbying for health care dollars.
The Governator and First Brother Jeb were noticeably absent at the dinner, which included Cabinet secretaries and spouses. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s spokesperson would only say he “had a scheduling conflict.” We’ve learned he was in Sacramento and isn’t scheduled to be back in the District until next week. Could he be spending more time close to home due to his recent drop in approval rating?
The Booksellers area at the White House is Washington’s version of the red carpet. That’s where the guests – those who don’t come in through the back entrance, as Vice President Cheney and entertainer Marvin Hamlisch did – parade by the social reporters and photographers who try to grab them for a few words. But there wasn’t much of that Sunday evening since some pressies didn’t bother with this ritual, saying they don’t feel welcome in “this” White House.
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said that although the education summit was good, we haven’t yet reached the mountaintop: “Our policy discussions have to be driven by the facts. We can’t sit here and feel good and act like we’re on Lake Wobegon.”
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III, (D), pointed out that he’s only been in office six weeks and is just happy to be invited to dinner at the White House. He expressed the sentiment of other wide-eyed newbies and, when asked what he wanted to say to President Bush, said, “I just hope he’s having a good day.”
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner cheerlead-ed: “In [Sec. of HHS] Mike Leavitt, we have someone we can work with and hopefully we can reach some consensus.”
Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., confided: “This is a great opportunity to meet with other governors so we can get our stories straight so we can ask for the same things.”
A confident New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has served in Congress and the Cabinet, and is now chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, exclaimed: “This is the best job in the world.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a former head of the Democratic party, has some advice for incoming DNC Chairman Howard Dean: “He needs to be very creative.” Rendell says the real issue is whether Dean will understand what the chairman’s role is, “to do what he can to strengthen our base and make sure our base gets to the polls.” Rendell says, “Most people are not looking for trash and burn; they want reasonable explanations.”
This self-appointed fashion cop spotted limited glam: the first lady of Utah, Mary Kaye Huntsman, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. When asked who their designers were, each reacted with puzzlement, although Chao confided that she purchased her formal attire “off the rack.”
West Coast time: Oscar pearls
Those at The White House fete made little mention of the Academy Awards. The only specter of Hollywood’s finest emanated following the “American Pie” (wild raspberry-apple) through the ivory-tickling of triple Oscar winner Hamlisch. But my source on the other coast, backstage at the Academy Awards, told me that Joan and Melissa Rivers had more spotters to grab celebrities than there were stars.
– Celebrities got around the “no alcohol” served in the Green Room – that’s where the stars (and their handmaidens) hang out before going on stage. Flasks popped out of pockets everywhere. And in the smoking lounge, health concerns were not an issue – wafts of cigarette and cigar smoke mingled with another distinctly familiar odor.
– Quick change, but not quick enough: Annette Bening brought an extra dress so she wouldn’t “present” in the dress seen on the “runway,” but she didn’t have time to change.
– Ranting comedian Chris Rock didn’t have time to worry about his threads – he crumbled under nerves while hastily rewriting his jokes. My source described him as “a one-person Chinese fire drill.”
‘Things didn’t go well … ‘
Greg Earls, the local businessman who was sentenced to 10 years on Friday for securities, wire and mail fraud, wryly told me: “Things didn’t go well today.” That’s an understatement but Earls, who cheated investors out of $13.8 million, seemed relaxed as he partied in Georgetown just days before his sentencing. Earl’s crime presents a dilemma for Harvard University, which is – most likely – not so relaxed, after accepting the money he embezzled.