The Dinner Dynasty

This Jonathon Chait piece about the Sally Quinn piece a couple days ago is really depressing:

The bipartisanship cargo cult in Washington is a rather sad tribe of people that laments the decline of bipartisanship, fails to grasp the larger historic forces that made bipartisanship appear and then disappear, and concludes that the problem is the lack of dinner parties. This is, believe it or not, an extremely common belief in our capital city. Seriously. Hardly a week goes by without somebody blaming partisan polarization on the lack of proper dinner parties or, in an occasional twist, lunch.

I can’t believe people really believe this. Chait finishes with a flourish, though, sticking the shiv in deep:

When assessing Quinn’s sense of the Lost Eden of Washington, we should also have a firmer sense of what the culture was actually like. Here is one scene from Quinn’s inculcation into the Washington elite:

    Washington writer Sally Quinn told of a 1950s reception where: “My mother and I headed for the buffet table. As we were reaching for the shrimp, both of us jumped and let out a shriek. Senator Strom Thurmond, grinning from ear to ear, had one hand on my behind and the other on my mother’s. As I recall, we were both quite flattered, and thought it terribly funny and wicked of Ol’ Strom.”

Once Washington was a happy place where a girl and her mother could be groped simultaneously in good fun by a white supremacist. Sadly, it has all been ruined by Kim Kardashian and Ezra Klein.

That should leave a mark.

53 replies
  1. 1
    dr. bloor says:

    Ezra’s not wrecking the place, he’s still just learning the ropes. Give him time.

  2. 2
    Hunter Gathers says:

    Needless to say that Chait won’t be dining with Miss Quinn anytime in the near future.

  3. 3
    the Conster says:

    It would leave a mark if Jon Chait hosted cocktail parties. Nothing’s worse than being left off a guest list where one can talk about those awful Obamas.

  4. 4
    NancyDarling says:

    But they all had robust sex lives in those days, John. Sex is about as bipartisan as you can be unless you are gay or other gendered. Can we blame it on all of those people who are no longer in the closet? Somewhere, someone will try.

  5. 5
    owlbear1 says:

    As if Quinn would even waste her beautiful mind on someone like Chait.

  6. 6
    Martin says:

    See, this is what Obama got all wrong – he should have been groping some women during his economic speech to show his dedication to bipartisanship.

  7. 7
    ding dong says:

    Guess Obama needs to pinch Sally’s bottom and she can oooh and aah and everything will be hunky dory

  8. 8
    El Cid says:

    The weirdest part is not that this is how Quinn views the situation, but that she felt like expressing that view to the general reading public was a good thing.

    In the old days, the upper classes kept their practices to themselves. I mean, the ones which mattered, and weren’t there just to impress.

  9. 9
    dmsilev says:

    That should leave a mark.

    Should, but won’t. That’s the real problem, that people like Quinn can only be dislodged by copious use of high explosives.

  10. 10
    JPL says:

    Sally should move to Happy Valley. She might find a few soul mates.

  11. 11

    I actually think that David Frum might have a point here. He acknowledges that Chait is kinda right, but adds:

    Over half a human lifetime, Washington has shifted from a city whose status hierarchy was dominated by official rank to one whose status hierarchy is determined almost entirely by money. A US senator is a smaller deal in the Washington of 2012 than his or her predecessor of 1972; a visiting billionaire a much bigger deal.

    I don’t want to fall into the trap of nostalgia, here, but we do have an increasingly polarized and stratified society. Maybe it was actually better for the world to have senators palling around with each other in Sally Quinn’s parlor than it is for them to be off separately begging for money from Jamie Dimon and Sheldon Adelson. We’re polarized, which is pretty bad for governance, and almost every politician is dependent on folks who buy into the David Brooksian elite consensus that we should occupy Iraq, and that we should make the poor people suffer for the financial sector’s sins.

    Am open to the argument that the difference is between two equal evils.

  12. 12
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    WTF? Who amongst us hasn’t fixed the problems of the world with a hastily-thrown-together after-dinner play?

  13. 13
    kindness says:

    I like Ezra but he has changed since going over to WaPo. He lost his perspective and is pumping someone elses? Who’se could that be?

    @ding dong: Guess Obama needs to pinch Sally’s bottom and she can oooh and aah and everything will be hunky dory

    Brings to mind Blazing Saddles scene: It’s twuo, it’s twuo…

  14. 14

    Yeah, Sally, volunteer to be groped by Peter King or Aqua Buddah for the sake of bipartisanship. Go ahead. I dare you! Or maybe she’s just upset that Anthony Wiener didn’t send her a picture of his … sheesh, this really is sad.

  15. 15
    Chris H says:

    I can’t read anything by or about Sally Quinn without immediately thinking back to that brutal Awl takedown of her column about the Quinn family dueling weddings fiasco:

    http://www.theawl.com/2010/02/.....disinvited

    It features some of Tom Scocca’s finest, funniest work and, having had the privilege of working under him at the Washington City Paper for a while, I can safely say the man’s wit is rapier as it comes.

  16. 16
    NonyNony says:

    @reflectionephemeral:

    I don’t want to fall into the trap of nostalgia, here, but we do have an increasingly polarized and stratified society.

    You’ve got causality backwards. The amazing change in wealth inequality between 1972 and now is what has pushed the differences outlined there. Back in ’72 Senators were wealthy guys, but the scale of wealth was much smaller. These days Senators are still wealthy guys, but there are guys that tower above them in wealth.

    If you brought back a 90% income tax on income over a million dollars a year it would all go away. Because the income disparity would dwindle back to what it was in the 60s pretty damn quick.

  17. 17
    NancyDarling says:

    I have read that when FDR had cronies over to the Whitehouse for poker or whatever, Eleanor used to scramble them up some eggs.

    She also served hotdogs on the Whitehouse lawn to the King and Queen of England when they dropped by for a visit.

  18. 18
    Valdivia says:

    I was waiting for someone to front page this. Glad you did.

    And not to be annoying but it is Jonathan. Not Jonathon. Sorry it’s a pet peeve of mine the misspelling of that name.

  19. 19

    This is a result of good-hearted people like Jonathan Haidt (ted talk here) profoundly misreading the zeitgeist, then the cocktail party circuit attaching themselves to him like flies in a sticky trap.

    Clue: Haidt is an observer (though he’d rather not be) and his research should not be used as a blueprint for comity.

  20. 20
    muddy says:

    @kindness:

    I like Ezra but he has changed since going over to WaPo. He lost his perspective and is pumping someone elses? Who’se could that be?

    He has been subbing for Rachel Maddow this week, I haven’t watched every bit of it, but the parts I saw were really good, and I didn’t have the urge to yell at him at all. Very progressive. But then I don’t know if he got to write his own script.

    Perhaps the feeling of the proper words flowing through his mouth will be refreshing to him and he’ll keep after it. Political mouthwash.

  21. 21
    kth says:

    Jon Chait used to feel like he had to punch a hippie every now and then, just to maintain his credibility. He hardly ever does now, but even if he did, I’d gladly take that occasional punch just to read something this awesome.

  22. 22
    Tractarian says:

    Check out Ol’ Sally’s Wikipedia page. It has been freshly edited.

  23. 23
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    That should leave a mark.

    Should, but won’t. The Quinn harlot epitomizes the vapidity of the Village. No self awareness at all.

    On edit: I owe dmsilev a refreshing fizzy beverage!

  24. 24
    Citizen Alan says:

    How old was Lil’ Sally when that happened? And she’s still proud of it today because it was a sign of sexual attention from a rich, powerful older man. I’m speechless, literally so because there is not a single word I can think of that accurately describes Sally Quinn that would not be horribly sexist and misogynistic. When powerful men think they can treat every woman they meet like a whore, it’s because they think all women are like Sally Quinn.

  25. 25
    Chris says:

    @reflectionephemeral:

    Over half a human lifetime, Washington has shifted from a city whose status hierarchy was dominated by official rank to one whose status hierarchy is determined almost entirely by money. A US senator is a smaller deal in the Washington of 2012 than his or her predecessor of 1972; a visiting billionaire a much bigger deal.

    Good point about the power shift from political to economic elites.

    Related: if anyone cares, El Cid wrote a pretty good series of posts starting here in a Balloon Juice thread back in January, about the fall of the old-school political machines and the rise of the zillionnaire lobbying and other political pressure groups in the latter part of the twentieth century. Long, but good.

  26. 26
    Hal says:

    Speaking of bipartisanship, isn’t Quinn the one who purposely schedule her son’s wedding on the same day as Ben Bradlee’s granddaughter? IIRC, the latter wedding had been long planned and Quinn moved up her own son’s wedding by six months. I guess bipartisanship is for politicians and not family members. Especially for third wives.

  27. 27
    rikyrah says:

    One of the things I love most about the President and First Lady is that they bring what I call the ‘ Black Professional’s’ outlook to the Presidency. They view it as a JOB, and keep JOB and PERSONAL – SEPARATE. They don’t need anymore ‘ friends’, so if they get lonely for friends, they ship them in from Chicago. They take them on vacation with them. I’m so glad that POTUS and FLOTUS don’t waste their time socializing with the nitwits of the press , it makes me smile. If Sally wants to see the White House, she can go on a tour like the rest of us.

    It truly burns them to see how much the FLOTUS invites ‘local children’ and ‘local nobodies’ into the WH on a daily basis.

  28. 28
    Egg Berry says:

    Wasn’t it David Brooks who said some Senator put his hand on Brooks’ knee? Maybe the halcyon days of yore are not so far behind.

  29. 29
    ruemara says:

    I am sure Ms. Quim is simply furious. May she ever be so.

  30. 30
    Valdivia says:

    @rikyrah:

    Totally with you on this. It also kills them that both of them have innate coolness which they can’t erase with their sneers.

  31. 31
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I’m all about ol’ Strom getting him a handful of Sally and mom’s crustaceans but – and not to dish on Sally like our friend Hal – maybe this is part of what turned Strom gay?

  32. 32
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @NonyNony:

    If you brought back a 90% income tax on income over a million dollars a year it would all go away. Because the income disparity would dwindle back to what it was in the 60s pretty damn quick.

    Progressive taxation, and redistributive social provision, are attempts — blasphemous at worst, and presumptuous at best — by fallible mortal legislators to substitute their imperfect, human judgment about who shall receive the good things of this world, and in what degree, in place of the inscrutable judgments of the Almighty.

    Baruch atah ha Shuk, ha dayan emet.

  33. 33
    Warren Terra says:

    Ezra has become less profane and more superficially polite to the Right. But he still calls a spade a spade in terms of policy analysis, on a daily basis – and he’s about the only person employed by a major paper who does, and he’s managed to build a brand around this and hire a few underbloggers to do it, to boot.

    To my mind, the best comparison is Andrew Sullivan: each has a handful of underbloggers, each does a daily blog, each purports to cover serious issues, to interview sources, and also posts some lighter stuff. But Sully’s blog is only about his opinions and personal reactions, his interviews with sources are insipid puffery with moderately prominent denizens of the blogosphere, and his underbloggers aren’t credited. It’s not a perfect comparison, but both are headliner-name-branded group blogging operations about politics paid by a major mainstream media outlet, so it’s not a terrible comparison, either. And it’s one that redounds heavily to Ezra’s benefit.

    And please note: if you like Ezra, keep in mind that he exists in anything like his current form because The American Prospect gave him training and paid blogging and reporting opportunities when he was basically still a kid with some blogging chops – a farm-team and mentorship situation they’ve given to a number of excellent young writers and bloggers; they offer one of the few paid writing and training opportunities for young progressives, and have an impressive list of alumni. The Prospect isn’t bankrolled by the likes of the Koch brothers, and it desperately needs your donations, right now.

  34. 34
    Hal says:

    @rikyrah:

    One of the things I love most about the President and First Lady is that they bring what I call the ‘ Black Professional’s’ outlook to the Presidency. They view it as a JOB, and keep JOB and PERSONAL – SEPARATE. They don’t need anymore ‘ friends’, so if they get lonely for friends, they ship them in from Chicago. They take them on vacation with them. I’m so glad that POTUS and FLOTUS don’t waste their time socializing with the nitwits of the press , it makes me smile. If Sally wants to see the White House, she can go on a tour like the rest of us.

    I would hate to see Obama lose in November, and I’m still convinced he will win, but my one point of comfort is the fact that I always thought the Obama’s (especially Michelle) would be perfectly fine to go back to Chicago and their old lives.

    This is the most glaring aspect of Romney’s personality I think should leave people the weariest. He wants the Presidency too badly, thinks America needs someone like him (rich, MBA, corporate) and has been running for the Presidency, in one form or another, for years. I honestly believe he has nothing else to look forward to professionally if he doesn’t win.

  35. 35
    Warren Terra says:

    @Tractarian:
    Nice.

    This part was also pretty good:

    A Savannah, Georgia, native and Smith College graduate, Quinn began at The Washington Post with very little experience: reportedly called by Ben Bradlee after a report of her pajama party in celebration of the election to Congress of Barry Goldwater, Jr., the job interview included the following exchange.

    “Can you show me something you’ve written?” asked Managing Editor Benjamin Bradlee. “I’ve never written anything,” admitted Quinn. Pause. “Well,” said Bradlee, “nobody’s perfect.”

    Mind you, this was when Bradlee was twice her age; he didn’t marry her until he was half again her age.

    The part about what turned out to be her last printed column is also a nice summary of a simply priceless display of narcissism from an expert in the practice.

  36. 36
    kindness says:

    @Hal: Romney believes that he is the Morman predicted in that a Morman will lead the country to divine victory over it’s enemies and Morman Jesus will rise again. I have to believe that.

  37. 37
    David in NY says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    When powerful men think they can treat every woman they meet like a whore, it’s because they think all women are like Sally Quinn.

    Neatly done!

  38. 38
    David in NY says:

    @kindness: I suspect he thinks he’s the appointed Mormon leader. Don’t know who the Morman guy would be.

  39. 39
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @David in NY:

    How about the Moran leader? Because he certainly shows many of the qualities.

  40. 40
    bootsy says:

    Sally Quinn: “Sure back then we had our disagreements. But you knew at the end of the day that everything would be all white… I mean right! Everything would be all right.”

  41. 41
    David in NY says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I stand uncorrected.

  42. 42
    Corbin Dallas Multipass says:

    I just want to point out that there is a Moral problem with Sally Quinn when the money corruption ruining her dinner parties is the problem and not the money corruption ruining our country.

    I know most get and that’s the underlying theme behind the jeers at her expense. I just think it needs to be said clearly and defined in terms of Morals. Her attitude is distinctly immoral.

  43. 43
    Brachiator says:

    @El Cid:

    In the old days, the upper classes kept their practices to themselves. I mean, the ones which mattered, and weren’t there just to impress.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean here.

    @Citizen Alan:

    When powerful men think they can treat every woman they meet like a whore, it’s because they think all women are like Sally Quinn.

    Could it be that some women are intentionally oblivious to the worst behavior of the men (and women) in their social circle, and become unwitting enablers of bad behavior?

    I doubt that Essie Mae Washington-Williams’ mother was flattered by Old Strom’s attention.” And Strom’s wandering hands and other body parts were not limited to his own social set.

  44. 44
    Roger Moore says:

    @Hal:

    I would hate to see Obama lose in November, and I’m still convinced he will win, but my one point of comfort is the fact that I always thought the Obama’s (especially Michelle) would be perfectly fine to go back to Chicago and their old lives.

    They can’t. Life always goes on; it never goes back. Even when they return to Chicago (hopefully in 2017), they won’t get their lives back. They’ll be the former President and First Lady, not Senator and Mrs., and that’s going to change their lives in more ways than they can count. They’ll never get to be who they were before or act the way they acted before.

  45. 45
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Brachiator:

    Didn’t LBJ caution his daughter about ol’ Strom?

  46. 46
    R-Jud says:

    @David in NY:

    Don’t know who the Morman guy would be.

    Shhh! It’s his secret identity: Mor-Man, The One Mighty And Strong!

    His suit of magic underwear, woven with hair from the mighty beard of Brigham Young, gives him the powers of flight, invulnerability, and immovable hair! His one mortal weakness: chocolate, uh… [gesturing vaguely] uh, sugary… round things, sort of cakey? You know what I mean.

  47. 47
    Someguy says:

    Dinner parties my ass. The country would be a better place to live if every liberal went out and cockpunched one Republican a day for a month. Preferably not the same one but if you don’t know 30 of the bastards, some repeat business would be okay…

  48. 48
    Joey Maloney says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Baruch atah ha Shuk, ha dayan emet.

    Win.

  49. 49
    Origuy says:

    @El Cid:

    In the old days, the upper classes kept their practices to themselves. I mean, the ones which mattered, and weren’t there just to impress.

    Are you thinking of the Hellfire Club? (SFW)

  50. 50
    Amir Khalid says:

    @ruemara:

    I am sure Ms. Quim is simply furious. May she ever be so.

    Is that a typo? I suspect not.

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    @Someguy:

    Dinner parties my ass. The country would be a better place to live if every liberal went out and cockpunched one Republican a day for a month. Preferably not the same one but if you don’t know 30 of the bastards, some repeat business would be okay…

    BWA HA HA HA H AHHA HA HA HA HA AH HA

  52. 52
    bjacques says:

    @Origuy:

    The Hellfire Club would be a pretty good description of the present British cabinet, seeing as in their college days they liked to bust up restaurants (even if they did pay for repairs). Except Sir Francis Dashwood, organizer of the best known club to bear the name (and they didn’t call themselves that) was pretty much a good guy. He tried, unsuccessfully, to broker an agreement between King George III and the restive American colonies.

    The Heckfire Club sounds about right, though.

  53. 53
    patrick says:

    They can’t. Life always goes on; it never goes back. Even when they return to Chicago (hopefully in 2017), they won’t get their lives back. They’ll be the former President and First Lady, not Senator and Mrs., and that’s going to change their lives in more ways than they can count. They’ll never get to be who they were before or act the way they acted before.

    anyone wonder if Barack would pull a John Q. Adams and go BACK to the senate after his presidency is over?

Comments are closed.