Easter is one of the more predictable holidays around the White House: The President will go to his ranch in Crawford, Tex., and come Monday, adorable, largely Midwestern-looking families take over the South Lawn for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
But not this year. The President, who will spend next weekend in California, is not heading for the ranch, even though this is perhaps the most pleasant time of year there, with inviting running weather and the bluebonnets in bloom. Instead, he left Thursday afternoon for Camp David, with aides smiling and waving at the Marine One chopper, knowing that they'd be getting some family time over the long weekend. The First Lady, Laura Bush, brought her mother, Jenna Welch, back from Texas this week for the festivities, and the President previewed the guest list for a well-wisher he stopped to chat with during a recent trip to Missouri.
"Mother and Dad are coming up for Easter," he said. "My brother and sister will be there. We're going to have a big time this weekend!"
They should enjoy the peace, because there may be chaos come Monday. An activist group has laid extensive plans for "hundreds of gay, lesbian and transgender families" to show up at the six-hour Egg Roll. The National Park Service gives out free tickets, and the Family Pride Coalition, a 25-year-old group that formerly was the Gay Fathers Coalition and now calls itself "dedicated to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents and their families," has marshaled volunteers to try to scoop up as many tickets as they can, five at a time. "We want to give our fellow citizens the opportunity to see us as real families," the group said in its announcement, "participating in a great American tradition on the White House lawn, rather than protesting from the sidelines." The activists plan to wear coordinated T-shirts to make an impact in television footage. If they are denied access, they plan to "gather together as a group as close to the media as possible to share our story," the group says in an advisory to potential participants.
The first White House Easter Egg Roll was held in 1878, and near the turn of the century events included "egg croquet." This year attractions will include children's book authors, magicians and strolling characters that include Curious George, the Cookie Monster and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Children age seven and under can actually roll eggs, and all family members are welcome to live music and live stage shows.
The White House line has been to basically ignore the activists, who have received extensive coverage on liberal radio shows. White House press secretary Scott McClellan gave the party line: "We welcome all those families that follow those guidelines that are in place." McClellan wouldn't say definitely whether the President will attend. "I don't have any update on his schedule for Monday," he said, using a standard formulation for declining to comment. "We'll keep you posted."
But the President's schedule gives a hint: For much of the morning, the President will be in Sterling, Va., touring Europa Stone Distributors, Inc., and holding a "Roundtable on Taxes and the Economy." That promises to be a staid respite from what could be a raucous day back home.