This is why we can’t have nice things with President Joe Biden in the White House.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre showed off a new lectern in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.
She touted it as a “blend of modernity and tradition.”
Normally, that means a thing is uninspired and ugly, but the problem this time isn’t in the way it looks — it’s in how it was named.
“I’m proud to name the lectern in honor of Alice Dunnigan and Ethel Payne, the first two black women in White House press corps,” Jean-Pierre announced.
“In addition to the annual White House Correspondents Association Award in their name, we are excited to help remember their service to the American public in this way,” the press secretary added.
This is the first time since 2007 that the lectern has gotten a redesign, and Jean-Pierre noted that the new one took shape over the last year.
“This lectern, a blend of modernity and tradition, is meant to embody the essence of our country’s stature, built using a harmonious combination of metal and black walnut, as you can see,” Jean-Pierre said.
“The metal speaks to the resilience and strength of our nation, while the black walnut represents the rich history and the deep-rooted foundations upon which this country stands,” she continued.
“The blue paint signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice,” the press secretary pointed out.
“Every member of this team, consisting of Army, Navy and the civilians, brought unique expertise and skills to the project, and we are deeply grateful for their work and this new addition to our shared space,” Jean-Pierre said.
Some members of the White House press corps shared images and video of the new lectern on social media.
A new lectern has been added to the James Brady Briefing Room. The last change was during the Bush 43 era and completes a refresh of this space which is part of the public face of the White House. pic.twitter.com/PV87DZqVmf
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) November 30, 2023
New this morning in the White House briefing room: a brand-new lectern pic.twitter.com/PwvHpqUIeN
— Betsy Klein (@betsy_klein) November 30, 2023
After their posts, a sign was added to the front of the lectern with “The White House” and “Washington” in white on a dark background with a red bar between them.
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 30, 2023
Strictly as a piece of furniture, the lectern is pleasing to look at but rather unremarkable despite the fanfare over it.
However, the choice of how to name it is part of a broader trend in the administration to always pander to and patronize the Democratic Party’s base with identity politics.
It’s not that the women don’t deserve the recognition — after all, Dunnigan and Payne were women who pushed back against racism, sexism and discrimination at a time in history when it wasn’t fashionable or even safe to do so, according to CBS News.
As usual, the problem is that the administration’s focus on intersectionality cheapens the gesture, even when the people being honored are worthy of it.
By always choosing to check a box — such as picking Vice President Kamala Harris because she’s black, Jean-Pierre because she’s lesbian and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine because he’s a man claiming to be a woman — Biden debases the legacy of truly groundbreaking individuals.
Whether stated or not, there’s now an understanding that naming something after anyone who isn’t a member of a minority or oppressed class is off limits.
(That’s unfortunate, as the room the new lectern graces was named after President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary James Brady, who was shot during the attempt on the president’s life in 1981; he would surely be overlooked today.)
Now, any time the Biden White House honors people, it’s understood that their race, sex or sexual orientation is the most important consideration over and above any achievement.
Much like the boss’ son who gets a promotion or the coach’s kid who plays every inning, the unfortunate consequence of favoritism means that even true merit is dismissed out of hand.
Biden and his administration have diminished every honor they bestow by constantly doing so for the sake of intersectional representation.
Sadly, as he’s apt to do, the president has ruined what should be a lovely gesture from an appreciative nation.
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