Jason Reed (REUTERS/FILE)
In one sign of the tough times that Barack Obamaâ€™s newly announced economic team will face, the nationâ€™s top military officer is disinviting people from his annual holiday party.Citing â€śthese trying financial timesâ€ť Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen and his wife, Deborah, last week mailed formal printed cards, topped with the admiralâ€™s pale-blue flag with four stars, disinviting guests from the annual holiday party the Chairman traditionally holds.
â€śPlease disregard your December 7 Holiday Reception invitation,â€ť the note says. â€śWe sincerely regret any inconvenience and greatly appreciate your understanding,â€ť the 4 Â˝ by 6 inch card continues. â€śAll the best for a joyous holiday season,â€ť it concludes.
An unusual message
It is a â€śrather unusual" note, admits the chairmanâ€™s spokesman, Navy Captain John Kirby. Admiral Mullen â€śbegan to grow concerned aboutâ€ť the partyâ€™s suitability, Kirby said. Unfortunately, the decision to forgo the holiday gathering came after the first batch of invitations had already been sent.
In normal years, several hundred Defense Department executives, diplomats, and members of the press attend the chairmanâ€™s party, with invitees arriving in shifts. It is a â€śbig party and it is fairly expensive,â€ť Kirby said. (Full disclosure: Guests in the past have included your loyal correspondent and my college-aged sons.)
A party with punch and a view
The traditional setting for the gathering, which features a military string quartet playing holiday music, is the chairmanâ€™s quarters at Fort Myer, Virginia, at the top of a hill offering stunning views of Washington and its monuments.
But when he was chief of naval operations, Mullen lived in large home on a government installation near the State Department, in the Foggy Bottom section of Washington. He stayed in the home when he was sworn in as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on October 1, 2007. So last year, the party was held there.
Welcoming a deserving group
While diplomats and reporters wonâ€™t be sipping punch and chatting with the chairman this year, he will be holding a much smaller holiday gathering for a much more deserving group. In their note disinviting reporters, Mullen and his wife said they would be hosting â€śa small gathering for wounded service members, their families, and the families of the fallen.â€ť