We can’t blame the Trump administration for everything. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” as President Trump said in February. Same for all the vacancies in the federal government—who could have predicted those would come up?
But when it comes to doing a subpar job of planning the annual Easter Egg Roll, a 138-year-old White House tradition, the administration has nowhere to look but in the mirror. The New York Times blew the lid off this scandal in Tuesday’s paper, with just a little under a week to go until E-day, Monday’s do-or-die event. Though a White House spokeswoman said it was “just not accurate” to predict a less-grand Easter Egg Roll than in past years, the numbers tell a different story:
The evidence points to a quickly thrown-together affair that people close to the planning said would probably draw about 20,000 people — substantially smaller than last year’s Easter Egg Roll, which drew 37,000 — and be staffed by 200 volunteers, one-fifth of the usual number. These people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to describe the plans for the Easter Egg Roll, which are still evolving just a week before the event.
In addition to fewer attendees and volunteers, there will only be 40,000 commemorative wooden eggs, down from the 85,000 ordered in 2016, and there may be “military bands in place of A-list entertainers like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Idina Menzel and Silentó who have performed for Egg Rolls past.” Rather than the cadre of costumed characters that have provided entertainment at previous egg rolls, so far only a “lone emissary” from Sesame Street is scheduled to attend. The Times added that it is “unclear … whether Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, will reprise his appearance in a bunny suit for the event, as he did a decade ago when George W. Bush was president and Mr. Spicer was an aide in the Office of the United States Trade Representative.”
There’s really no excuse for this level of incompetence. Easter is an annual holiday, so it happens every year. The date changes from year to year, which can be tricky, but is a problem that a crack staff would be able to overcome. More importantly, the White House Easter Egg Roll is supposed to be a gimme, a feel-good public relations coup that makes the administration look good. Associating yourself with happy children and wholesome good fun is always going to be a no-brainer, and in this administration, it would be a welcome distraction from the failure of the Republican-led health care plan, allegations of ties to Russia, and some of the other undesirable narratives that have plagued the White House in its first few months.
That’s not to say putting together such a huge and high-profile event is easy. “You don’t understand what a beast this thing is to plan until you go and plan your first one,” the organizer of these Easter affairs under the Obamas told the paper. Much of the responsibility has historically fallen on the First Lady, and in the case of Melania Trump, who lives mostly in New York and “has been slow to hire a staff for the East Wing,” it’s understandably harder to plan a giant Easter party when one doesn’t have a full staff.
The Trump administration has a lot of other things on its plate to worry about right now. Of course the Easter Egg Roll wasn’t going to be top priority. But it’s not going to look great if a bunch of children are crying on the White House lawn because there aren’t enough eggs, or the volunteers in bunny suits seem suspiciously like Russian goons, or Trump tries to hug any of them and they recoil in terror. And Easter is hardly the last holiday to worry about: What if they forget to decorate for Christmas until the last minute, and the slapdash gingerbread house they make collapses in front of everyone? Imagine the headlines, the optics! And you know how the president chooses a turkey to pardon every year? I’m calling it now: Somehow Trump is going to end up responsible for a bunch of dead turkeys if he and his staff don’t get their acts together.