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PALIN FLASHBACK: Palin joins nation’s elite at exclusive dinner

Posted by Sarah Palin Web Brigade on February 27, 2011

Governor Palin, accompanied by Meg Stapleton, arrives at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D. C. for the exclusive Alfalfa Dinner.

Erika Bolstad at the Alaska Daily News wrote about Governor Palin’s attendance at the exclusive Alfalfa Club in Washington, D. C.  in January, 2009. 

Palin joins nation’s elite at exclusive dinner

EXCLUSIVE: Palin’s higher profile got her into the annual dinner.

By ERIKA BOLSTAD

Published: January 31st, 2009 08:29 PM
Last Modified: February 1st, 2009 12:27 AM

WASHINGTON — Mere months ago, Gov. Sarah Palin was introduced to the world as a hockey mom who hunts and fishes, remains grounded in small-town values and is married to her blue-collar, snowmachine-loving high school sweetheart.

Saturday night, Palin was whisked into the governors-and-Cabinet-members-only section of one of the capital’s most exclusive parties: the Alfalfa Club dinner. Wearing an elegant black satin evening gown and a matching wrap, hair loose to her shoulders, Palin was about as far away as anyone can get from field-dressing a moose.

The dinner was held in the heart of Washington, D.C., at the Capital Hilton within sight of the White House. Palin’s invitation to the Alfalfa Club was “a coup,” said Letitia Baldrige, who served as the White House social secretary and chief of staff to Jacqueline Kennedy.

“It’s something that everybody who’s anybody in politics wants to be invited to,” Baldrige said.

If a roasting by the most powerful people in America is a sign you’ve made it, then Palin had clearly arrived. Or, at the very least, was acknowledged Saturday night as one of the most interesting women in American politics.

The outgoing president of the Alfalfa Club, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, teased Palin in a way allowable only by a fellow veteran of the vice presidential campaign trail.

“I was seriously being considered to be McCain’s pick for vice president,” said Lieberman, Al Gore’s 2000 running mate and a former Democrat who campaigned for Sen. John McCain this year.

“But then John called me,” Lieberman said. “As he always does, he got right to the point. He said, ‘Joe, I can’t do it. I need more than just a pretty face.’

“I was so close. As close as Alaska is to Russia. You could almost say that from my doorstep I could see the vice president’s mansion,” he said.

The club’s roots are deep in Washington. While it has a prestigious guest list these days, it was a drinking club first and foremost when it was founded in 1913, said Donald Ritchie, the associate historian of the U.S. Senate. That’s where Alfalfa comes in — the alfalfa plant “put down deep roots and could always get a drink,” Ritchie said. The plant would “persevere to get a drink, and so would they.”

ultra-exclusive

The Alfalfa Club was so prestigious that in the 1920s and ’30s, Washington newspapers would print the names of attendees, Ritchie said. The annual dinner remains an enduring tradition that few besides insiders are allowed to glimpse.

Because its founders were Southerners — and in 1913, Washington was a Southern town — they chose Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday for the date of their annual celebration. The dinner continues to be around Lee’s birthday, Jan. 19, although the club’s origins appear to have little other connection to the Civil War general.

The guest list is the embodiment of the old question: If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone, who would be on your guest list? Did we mention that President Barack Obama was there, telling jokes?

“I know that many of you are aware that this dinner began almost 100 years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of Gen. Robert E. Lee,” Obama said. “If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old. And very confused.”

The governor’s office wouldn’t say who invited Palin, but by tradition, each member is allowed two guests.

Her host could be among any number of famous, powerful or once-powerful members, including Palin’s fellow Alaskan, former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, who also attended Saturday’s dinner.

Palin’s presidential running mate, Sen. John McCain, is a member. So is the man whose job she wanted: Vice President Joe Biden.

ted in the spotlight

According to accounts of the dinners of the past decade, the event retains the air of a 1950s fraternity banquet. Typically, the club’s members pick an honorary “president” each year — and do little else officially. In 2003, the Washington Post’s account reported that Stevens accepted the Alfalfans’ presidential nomination wearing a fur hat, sealskin vest and mukluks, and brandishing an oosik, a walrus penis bone.

Stevens laid out his health care platform, which, according to the Post, was to find a cure for frostbite. “When it comes to frostbite,” said Stevens, then 79, “what you have to worry about is nose, toes and something that at my age may as well be froze.”

Former first lady Barbara Bush had this comeback, according to the Post: “Ted, this is the third time you’ve brought one of those walrus things to this dinner. I hate to think what went on here before women were admitted.”

The Alfalfa Club did not allow women as members until 1993. But Saturday night, dozens of powerful women streamed in, some members, some guests: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell on the arm of her husband, Alan Greenspan. And Palin.

palin keeps low profile

The governor’s weekend itinerary wasn’t limited to the Alfalfa Club. It included a Friday night dinner at the home of Fred Malek, who headed McCain’s campaign finance committee. She also was scheduled to meet with her Washington staff and attend a luncheon at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Palin has kept a low profile on this trip. She turned down all requests for interviews, including the other invitations that indicate one’s arrival in Washington: appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows. She also didn’t attend any events that could be perceived as partisan, including the winter meeting of the Republican National Committee, also this weekend.

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One Response to “PALIN FLASHBACK: Palin joins nation’s elite at exclusive dinner”

  1. […] ALIN FLASHBACK: Palin joins nation’s elite at exclusive dinner […]

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