A simple, "Yes, thank you, I'm honored," is no longer the universal response to an event invitation from the White House, even for a rare State Dinner.
Instead, some guests demand that the White House kitchen whip up special foods for them. Others not invited make threatening phone calls. And rudest of all, some don't even RSVP.
Those are among the experiences captured in a new podcast of White House social secretaries from the White House Historical Association.
The new podcast features former Clinton era social secretary Ann Stock and Amy Zantzinger who worked for former President Bush.
Theirs are fascinating tales of working closely with the first family to host hundreds of parties, dinners and other events, from State Dinners to Christmas celebrations.
And they also echoed some of the rudeness experienced by other social secretaries like another former Bush party planner Lea Berman who once pointed a finger at guests who don't answer RSVP requests.
"You'd be surprised how many people we always have to call and say, ‘Will you be coming?'" she said at a 2012 conference hosted by the Smithsonian Institution and White House Historical Association. She said some people who don't like the administration sometimes pause, but her advice was, "If you get invited to the White House and you despise the sitting president, just go!"
Fast forward to the new WHHA "1600 Sessions" podcast where Stock and Zantzinger revealed other guest issues.
Zantzinger, for example, said former first lady Laura Bush was very engaged in directing events and eager to make every experience special for guests.
"Mrs. Bush was very concerned about everybody's comfort, and were they happy," she said.
And that included making sure dietary restrictions were considered.
"The White House does a great job honoring dietary restrictions. I used to laugh because the woman that would always take the RSVPs would always ask when accepting the dinner, ‘And do you have any dietary restrictions?' And we were looking for stuff like, ‘I'm a vegetarian.' But some people would start rambling on, ‘I don't like too much salt,' ‘I don't like this, I don't like that.' And I said, it's restrictions, it's not preferences. There's a big difference" said Zantzinger.
Stock, meanwhile, described the process of landing the best and most diverse guests for State Dinners.
"You get suggestions from literally everywhere," she said. In the end, "You hope that after you run this list through the State Department, the NSC, the president and first lady, that you've got everybody on that list that should be on it."
But not always, she explained.
"You usually have somebody who knows there's going to be a State Dinner and they think they should be on it, they've already called and voiced their opinion as to why they better be on that guest list. If you happen to miss somebody that's important and you will get an earful and they will call you up and, you know, rip you up one side and down the other. And my MO was just to listen, listen, listen, say, ‘I'm really sorry, sorry that happened.' And usually by the time you've listened and said nothing and let them speak, they're totally embarrassed. You will probably get a bouquet of flowers or fruit basket because they're so embarrassed," said Stock.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org