WASHINGTON – Party plans had been in the works for months and many guests had already arrived at Martha’s Vineyard when former President Barack Obama belatedly announced he was canceling his massive 60th birthday party scheduled for Saturday.
“Due to the re-release of the Delta variant over the past week, the President and Mrs. Obama have decided to drastically reduce the event to include only family and close friends,” said Hannah Hankins, door – speech of the former president. a press release Wednesday morning. “He appreciates that others send their birthday greetings from afar and looks forward to seeing people soon.”
Hundreds of former Obama administration officials, celebrities and Democratic donors had planned to attend the party at Mr. Obama’s island mansion, many of whom were renting homes on the island. Many guests were already in transit, and others were planning the required coronavirus tests, the results of which they had to submit to a medical “coronavirus coordinator” to enter Obama’s compound when they were informed Tuesday night that they were no longer invited. The New York Post had reported that George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey were all scheduled to attend.
“They’ve been concerned about the virus from the start, asking guests if they’ve been vaccinated, asking them to be tested near the event,” said David Axelrod, a former senior Obama adviser. “But when it was planned, the situation was quite different. So they reacted to the changing circumstances.
Mr. Axelrod said he was no longer present. Rahm Emanuel, who served as Mr. Obama’s first chief of staff, also planned to attend the party. But he said he got a call Tuesday night telling him that if he wasn’t already on the island, he shouldn’t come.
Mr Emanuel joked to Marty Nesbitt, a close friend of the former president and president of the Obama Foundation, that the revoked invitation was an exercise in character building. “I told him we had literally been voted off the island,” Mr. Emanuel said.
Mr. Obama’s change of plan came days after President Biden effectively admitted the pandemic had come back in full force, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an internal document that the Delta variant was much more contagious. and more likely to break vaccine protections. than all other known versions of the virus.
Mr. Obama, however, initially appeared keen to press ahead with his plans, flaunting what some pro-Obama Democrats have said they saw as an occasional disregard for his birthday party optics. Even though cities like Washington have reimposed mask warrants indoors, a source involved in planning for Mr. Obama’s birthday party said the event would go ahead as planned, stressing that it would go ahead. outside and that all guests would follow CDC public health protocols.
Some of Mr. Obama’s former aides have also defended his decision to continue.
“Guys… buy a cardTommy Vietor, a former Obama spokesperson, wrote on Twitter in response to a news article about the party’s process amid growing concerns about the coronavirus after an outbreak in the vaccinated community of Provincetown, Mass. “Martha’s Vineyard is an island. It’s not near Provincetown.
Some supporters of the island were also eager to take his defense. “I am delighted that he is celebrating his birthday here,” said Caroline Hunter, activist and resident of the Oak Bluffs neighborhood. “I think we should be a lot more concerned about the unvaccinated people. “
But other guests had already decided it was best not to attend. Ronald A. Klain, the White House chief of staff, for example, had changed his mind and chose not to attend. (White House colleagues have clarified that Mr. Klain made the decision before last week to celebrate his 60th birthday instead at his home in Washington.)
Alan Dershowitz, a controversial Martha’s Vineyard resident who was part of the defense team for former President Donald J. Trump in his first impeachment trial, said the Chilmark community was critical of the glitzy party and said that it was wise for Mr. Obama to cancel or postpone it rather than create a distraction for Mr. Biden’s messages on the pandemic.
“Everyone talks about it and nobody talks about it in a positive way,” Dershowitz said in an interview on Tuesday. “Some people find excuses for it. No one is saying it’s a good idea.