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As many White House officials have left over the past few months, a new signal of power and internal clout has emerged: Who, among the departing, gets a prime location for their going away parties.
Despite the fancy address and the proximity to the nuclear codes, the White House is just like any other office when it comes to going away events. The more important and beloved the employee, the more extravagant and special the going away event. The location can leave some White House officials feeling validated and others snubbed.
So, here is the definitive West Wing Playbook rankings of White House goodbye party locations. The White House declined to comment.
The “We LOVE You” tier
If you are deemed important by the upper ranks of the Biden White House, there are three main blue chip spots for your going away party, White House officials tell us.
- The Jacqueline Kennedy garden: Dedicated to the former first lady by LADY BIRD JOHNSON. Kennedy worked with designer RACHEL LAMBERT MELLON to craft “a well-defined lawn surrounded by flower beds, boxwood and topiary trees,” per the Obama White House’s description (there was also some drama around MELANIA TRUMP’s changes to it). Many of the departure events here have been with people who are considered “in the family,” according to a White House source. In other words, it’s not necessarily about your title but rather your length of service and proximity to power. Before she changed her mind, White House communications director KATE BEDINGFIELD was set to have her party there. THOMAS WINSLOW, the longtime aide to deputy chief of staff JEN O’MALLEY DILLON, recently had his send-off there.
- The chief of staff’s garden: Former Covid-19 “czar” JEFF ZIENTS and the head of the Office of Public Engagement CEDRIC RICHMOND both had their send-offs here, right outside RON KLAIN’s office. If you’re close to the inner circle, it’s a prime place for a goodbye.
- The Truman balcony: Overlooking the National Mall and the Washington Monument, there are few spots cooler in the White House, in our honest opinion. We asked around and, as far as we know, only one White House official has had their last hurrah in this prime location: former press secretary JEN PSAKI.
The “We Like-Like You” tier
So if you’re powerful but not that powerful, you still get to have your going away party in the White House itself. Officials tell us that many of these parties happen on the State Floor of the White House. The Blue Room is an occasional venue, and an ornate one at that. According to the White House Historical Association, it is one of the “most elegant space[s] of James Hoban’s plans for the White House.”
The “We Couldn’t Have Done It Without You” tier
Yes, you technically work at the White House but you really spend most of your time at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) across the street. The two best spots for your send-off are the second gentleman’s balcony with great views and the Indian Treaty Room. But don’t get too down. According to George W. Bush’s White House, the Treaty Room “cost more to construct than any other room in the building.”
The “We Appreciate Your Service” tier
The other two main spots at EEOB are the balconies on the second floor, with the one outside the Office of Management and Budget getting frequent use. As one White House official noted, it’s not uncommon to wander into the wrong going away party while on the second floor balconies.
The “Good Luck Out There” tier
Maybe you just wanted to get out ASAP. Maybe this White House wasn’t what you were hoping for. Maybe it was a scheduling conflict and you couldn’t do a party in the evening. Maybe you had a bad boss. Whatever the case, White House officials say the least glamorous going away parties often happen at the picnic tables on West Exec, often during the day. But, look, you’ll always have a friend in West Wing Playbook.
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This one is from Allie. Which president worked as a tailor before assuming office?
(Answer at the bottom.)
RARE PRAISE: Readers of this newsletter likely know the Wall Street Journal editorial board is critical of the president. But Biden got some rare praise from the paper’s right-leaning ed-board on Wednesday over the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter.
The paper called it the “best move on regulation to date,” one that came after Biden “lit a fire” under the FDA. But of course, the praise came with a caveat: The Journal said the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act would raise prices, and “reduce competition and encourage consolidation.”
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: Results from the latest POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showing strong support for initiatives in the previously-mentioned IRA, which the president signed into law Tuesday. White House deputy press secretary ANDREW BATES retweeted a post highlighting some of the poll results Wednesday.
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: This story from yesterday’s Washington Post about the National Academy of Sciences decision to prohibit JANE LUBCHENCO from participating in its publications and activities for five years. The NAS said that before she joined the Biden administration last year, the deputy director for climate and environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy violated its rules when she accepted an article for publication “that was later retracted because it relied on outdated data.” She also had a personal relationship with one of the authors — her brother-in-law.
KLAIN SPEAKS: Following Rep. LIZ CHENEY’s loss in Wyoming’s GOP primary Tuesday, White House chief of staff Ron Klain expressed respect for the lawmaker and her outspoken opposition to former President DONALD TRUMP’s influence on the party. He called Cheney’s loss proof that “the American people are going to have to fight for their democracy.” Our KELLY HOPPER has more details.
A NEW CDC ERA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director ROCHELLE WALENSKY on Wednesday launched an overhaul of its structure and operations, hoping to modernize the agency and repair a reputation damaged by its response to the pandemic, our KRISTA MAHR reports.
“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Walensky said in a statement. “As a long-time admirer of this agency and a champion for public health, I want us all to do better.”
NO TIME TO WASTE: Just one day after the president signed the Democrats’ major health and climate bill, Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN ordered the IRS to create a plan within six months outlining how it will modernize its technology, customer service and hiring processes. The new bill includes nearly $80 billion over the next 10 years for the IRS. AP’s FATIMA HUSSEIN has more details.
FIRST IN WEST WING PLAYBOOK: SHELBY WAGENSELLER started on Monday as deputy associate director for communications for the budget side of the Office of Management and Budget, DANIEL LIPPMAN has learned. She most recently was deputy communications director at the Office of Personnel Management.
Also, MELANIE NAKAGAWA, the National Security Council’s senior director for climate and energy — who has worked in the administration since Day One — will depart the White House next week, a White House official told Lippman. STEPHANIE EPNER is joining the NSC as special adviser for climate and acting senior director for climate and energy. She most recently was senior adviser on climate change and foreign policy at the State Department, where she worked closely with Special Presidential Envoy for Climate JOHN KERRY and also was on Secretary of State TONY BLINKEN‘s policy planning staff.
Inside the 100-day U.S. struggle to stop monkeypox (WaPo’s Dan Diamond, Fenit Nirappil and Lena H. Sun)
Essential Politics: ‘Truth and transparency’? White House sources routinely ask for anonymity (LAT’s Noah Bierman)
She was the only one to survive a lightning strike. She wonders why. (WaPo’s Emily Davies)
White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator ASHISH JHA on NBC Nightly News at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
DARCY PALDER, communications assistant to the second gentleman, once wrote a scathing opinion piece against teenage dating for her high school paper.
“I just think teenagers are desperate to find the person they can depend on forever. We want to cling on right after the first handshake and never let go,” Palder wrote back in 2017. “We need to slow down.”
She added that the best kind of relationships “don’t need monthly anniversary posts on social media to tell each other how much they mean to each other.”
We won’t give much more away (read the full piece here!) but Palder capped it off with this line: “I’m not saying teenagers shouldn’t be in love and be happy about it, but I don’t think high school is the time to pick out China patterns for your wedding anniversary.”
President ANDREW JOHNSON worked as a tailor.
According to the Miller Center: “When Andrew was fourteen, his parents apprenticed the two boys to a local tailor, with whom they worked for several years before running away. After being on the run for two years with a reward on his head, Andrew returned to Raleigh in 1826 to reunite with his mother and stepfather before moving west in a one-horse cart to Greeneville, Tennessee, where the seventeen-year-old Andrew set up shop as a tailor.”
A CALL OUT — Do you have a harder trivia question? Send us your best one about the presidents with a citation and we may feature it.
Edited by Eun Kyung Kim and Sam Stein.