April 27, 2018

Get me Larry Kudlow

As spring rituals go, Washington, D.C., is probably best known for its cherry blossoms and Easter egg roll on the White House lawn. For those in the news business, however, there is a different high point of the season, a black-tie affair that brings together the capital’s biggest mover and shakers, headliners from the world of politics and entertainment, and media stars.

The annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association will be held tomorrow night, as tradition dictates, on the last Saturday of April in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton. Hosted by comedian Michelle Wolf, the event, founded in 1921, will be broadcast live on CNN. In most years, presidents attend, seated prominently on the dais with WHCA officers, paying their respects, with widely varying degrees of enthusiasm, to members of the Washington press corps, and good-naturedly taking one-liners from the evening’s master of ceremonies. (President Donald Trump is skipping the event this year, as he did last year. His re-election campaign committee organized a rally for the president in Macomb County, Michigan, that will kick off around the time the journalists and their guests are sitting down to dinner.)

For members of the press whose news organizations are credentialed by the White House and belong to the WHCA, the annual dinner is a big deal. For early-career journalists, it is also a rite of passage, a chance to mingle with peers and Washington’s best and brightest. But anyone with a ticket can do that. All eyes are on the pre-dinner competition to see who can wrangle the guest with the most power and prestige. In senior year of high school, the perennial big question was, “Who are you taking to the prom?” For Washington journalists, it’s “Who did you get for the WHCA dinner?”

A rookie reporter like me needed some schooling in how this all worked. My bureau chief at Fairchild Publications, a seasoned journalist and well-connected player on the Washington scene, guided me through the paces. Start with the most senior officials at the federal departments you cover (in my case, these were Treasury, the Federal Reserve, Commerce and the economic side of the White House), and work your way down. OK, I said, and off I went to start my calls (email’s arrival still was several years away).

I contacted agency heads and assistant secretaries. No luck. I went down another level, reaching out to junior aides and advisors. I seemed to be striking out everywhere, a harsh reminder of the capital’s entrenched pecking order. The good names were either already taken or had zero interest in attending the dinner with me. Eager to see that I wasn’t going to the dance alone, my bureau chief came up with a last-ditch idea: try Lawrence Kudlow.

President Ronald Reagan had just taken his second oath of office. The economy was beginning to recover from an historic spike in interest rates and seemed to be on the rise again. Mr. Kudlow’s stock at the time was heading in the opposite direction. Recruited from a Wall Street firm by White House Budget Director David Stockman, the wunderkind economist championed the core tenets of Reaganomics — more tax cuts, smaller government deficits and spending. He was appointed Mr. Stockman’s top economist, becoming a key player in advancing Mr. Reagan’s tax and spending policy agenda — “a fellow traveler,” his boss once said. Soon, however, supply-side economics fell from grace. The deficit was mushrooming and Mr. Stockman (who was famously quoted as calling the Reagan tax cuts “a Trojan horse”) left his post. Mr. Kudlow departed, too. By the time my invitation to the WHCA dinner arrived, he was effectively out of work. He was also going through the breakup of his first marriage. And, as he would reveal years later, he was battling a growing alcohol and drug problem.

We met at my company’s table. Conversation was sparse during the meal. My guest seemed unsettled, his attention focused elsewhere. After the meal, when the speeches began and WHCA announced its annual awards and scholarships, Mr. Kudlow lit a cigar and pulled his chair back from the table. He scanned the room, assessing who was sitting where, a measure of each guest’s relative social and political standing.

Perhaps the out of work economist’s table assignment and unknown host were reminders of how far his fortune had fallen just then. But in the ensuing decades he has rebounded, his stock rising once again. Mr. Kudlow — known to everyone as Larry — would return to Wall Street as the chief economist at Bear Stearns, and later go on to a successful career as a TV and radio commentator and host. He remarried, and has told others that he has successfully overcome his alcohol and drug addictions.

Now the media-savvy commentator and former supply-side evangelist is back in Washington. Mr. Trump last month appointed Mr. Kudlow head of the National Economic Council, the most senior economics position in government.

I ran into Mr. Kudlow about 10 years ago at an art gallery opening in Chappaqua, where his current wife, Judy, a former Reagan press aide, was showing her paintings. He was cordial and looked well. I reminded him of our night out together at the 1984 Correspondents’ Dinner. I don’t think he remembered me.

— Edward Baum


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NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market,Trinity Corners Shopping Center, 55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco, 66 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy, Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli, Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell, Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center, 193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli, Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli, 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)

  3. Meme’s Treats, 17 Adams Street


Katonah

  1. Little Joe’s Books, 25 Katonah Avenue     

  2. CVS – Katonah Shopping Center, 294 Katonah Avenue   

  3. Katonah Sunoco, 105 Bedford Road

  4. The Reading Room, 19 Edgemont Road

  5. Weinstein’s Pharmacy, 101 Katonah Avenue

  6. DeCicco Family Markets, 132 Bedford Road

  7. Katonah Pharmacy, 202 Katonah Avenue


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News, 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Cross River Shell Station, Route 35    

  2. Cameron’s Deli. 890 Route 35

  3. Cross River Pharmacy, 20 North Salem Road

  4. DeCicco Family Markets, 1 Orchard Plaza


Goldens Bridge

Cardware Store, 100 N. County Shopping Center

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