Shaker Heights, Ohio
This year, Cockburn’s annual call for Christmas party invitations took him all over the country: DC, New York, even to one to “the longest-running libertarian-hosted Christmas party in Ohio.”

What type of libertarians were these? he wondered, as visions of a drug-laced hors d'oeuvre platter and laissez-faire lovemaking danced in his head.

“The party has spawned one marriage and three children,” Cockburn’s invitation said, confirming his suspicion (and hope) that all libertarians are also libertines.

The Ohio party was advertised as “multi-generational,” and Cockburn’s would-be hosts helpfully added, “We managed to kill no one attending during...

Shaker Heights, Ohio

This year, Cockburn’s annual call for Christmas party invitations took him all over the country: DC, New York, even to one to “the longest-running libertarian-hosted Christmas party in Ohio.”

What type of libertarians were these? he wondered, as visions of a drug-laced hors d’oeuvre platter and laissez-faire lovemaking danced in his head.

“The party has spawned one marriage and three children,” Cockburn’s invitation said, confirming his suspicion (and hope) that all libertarians are also libertines.

The Ohio party was advertised as “multi-generational,” and Cockburn’s would-be hosts helpfully added, “We managed to kill no one attending during Covid years.” Intrigued by the party’s claims of “the best artichoke dip east of the Mississippi,” Cockburn became positively titillated by temptations of “a full bar.” And his RSVP was no longer in question when he read those magic words proving his hosts are loyal readers, “…and we’ve never run out of booze or ice!”

Cockburn donned his “smart casual with a festive flair” attire in keeping with the dress code and hopped the first train to suburban Cleveland. He gawked at the charming stone and brick 1920s bungalows of Shaker Heights and stopped in front of one. He thought he might know the libertarian home by a deregulated parking situation — cars on the lawn and halfway up the curb — or by the freedom-lovers foregoing streetlights in the name of autonomy from the state. But no. The only thing that set the party house apart was the music of children’s laughter that met his ears on the doorstep.

No one heard Cockburn knock, so he let himself in and told a guest who he was. He was taken under the wing of Kelly, a beautiful blonde daughter of the household who introduced Cockburn to her lovely sister Katie and buoyant brother Patrick. Kelly and Patrick reside in New York City now, but they make it a point never to miss the Cleveland party, which has been running for twenty-plus years now.

Cockburn conversed with fellow guests on the most diverse topics: how teenagers these days no longer suffer through an “awkward” phase; how people in DC are terribly boring at parties and only talk long enough to find out if you can advance their career; what John Stossel is doing now; how being a total slob is tied to a person’s Myers-Briggs type and there is hope for everyone! (Katie and Kelly turned their polar-opposite personalities into a successful professional organizing business.)

Cockburn also learned that Clevelanders think of themselves as underdogs, but the city really has a lot going for it: the Cleveland Orchestra is one of the top five in the world. The city is also home to both the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world’s best hospitals, and the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Cockburn learned a lot about Winston Churchill and rested his gin and tonic on a replica of Churchill’s desk, as his host, Michael, is an expert on the man and has published several books about him. Cockburn was also astonished to learn that Browns fans do exist (he’d never met one in real life), and from his estimation, they are about as pleasant a sort of people as you’ll ever come across.

Cockburn left the party in the full fuzzy spirit of the season. The Cleveland party had been everything a holiday party ought to be — full of smart, friendly, interesting people and enlightening conversation, plenty of tasty food and drink and a functional group of family and friends gathered in a cozy, elegant old home with a roaring fire, genuinely enjoying one another. The cherry in the cocktail was when Cockburn spotted several copies of The Spectator’s monthly print magazine in the powder room.

***

Washington, DC

The journalism A-listers were out in force at a White House Christmas party for ink-stained wretches last week. Big Beast Bob Woodward stalked the halls, getting the life story of every military official in attendance and posing for selfies with millennial fans. The Semafor Smiths (Ben and Justin) strutted their start-up stuff by being conspicuously underdressed. Recent blockbuster acquisitions, Jonathan Swan (Axios to the New York Times) and Jonathan Martin (New York Times to Politico) circulated with the self-assurance of men who have just hit it big. And then, of course, there was Cockburn, old hand of the Washington Christmas circuit who knows which drinks to dodge (swerve the presidential eggnog, stick to the Champagne) and which canapés to prioritize (head for the crab claws, save the cheese board for later).

The party was a strictly print media affair, which means the crowd was under-coiffed and over-served. Scruffy and sloppy, just how Cockburn likes it. Even a jaded veteran such as he admits to being taken in by the festive pomp and circumstance: military bands playing Christmas classics and the halls of the White House well and truly decked (well done, Dr. Biden).

Cockburn has only two complaints, both relating to our octogenarian president’s stamina. Joe has ditched individual photos with members of the press, instead insisting on group shots to speed up the process. Twelve-person photos may be friendlier to sleepy Joe’s sleep habits, but they don’t really make for a not-so-humble-brag framer. And the president’s early bedtime was presumably also the explanation for the tight two-hour window within which the press had to get their fill of White House catering. Come 9 p.m. and the military men and woman who keep such events running smoothly brought proceedings to close with an abruptness rivaled only by last year’s Afghanistan withdrawal.

Things were a touch more upbeat at Cockburn’s other DC functions. Particularly of note: a shindig at the Georgetown manse of the Atlantic’s David Frum. The bash boasted a glowing outdoor fire pit, a spread of chocolate-colored berries, a DJ and dancefloor — and coat-check. In a private residence!

That’s not to mention the names: unsurprisingly Frum’s festivities were wall-to-wall with DC hoi polloi. Cockburn made out Media Matters founder David Brock, Biden staff secretary Neera Tanden, the Atlantic’s Andrew Ferguson and Tom Nichols, former Atlantic critic Leon Wieseltier, former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, Secret City author James Kirchick, Substacker extraordinaires Andrew Sullivan and Josh Barro, former congressman Denver Riggleman, Semafor’s David Weigel, Middle East expert Reuel Marc Gerecht, journalist Peter Pomerantsev and MSNBC pundit Malcolm Nance, fresh from his stint with the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

Earlier on in the party season, Cockburn made whoopee at the black-tie Encounter Books Gala, hosted at Anderson House in Dupont Circle by his Spectator comrade Roger Kimball. Honored at the dinner were Trump Covid czar Dr. Scott Atlas and Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald. Mac Donald gave a speech running down a history of campus crazies in which she took no prisoners, reserving particular ire for the “Students Against Intervention in El Salvador.” Cockburn had a brief chinwag with Brazilian ambassador, Nestor Forster, about the talented soccer star Richarlison’s sensational goal against Serbia. He also quaffed Champagne and caught up with a plethora of the Arts section writers his noble magazine borrows from the New Criterion: James Panero, Robert S. Erickson, Benjamin Riley, the lot. There are worse ways to spend a Thursday night.

***

New York

Due to a clerical error, Cockburn found himself at Mediaite’s Most Influential in News Media 2022 event at Fine and Rare in Manhattan. He was, without a doubt, the least influential person in news media present — he found himself in line for coat check behind Molly Jong-Fast and Sean Spicer — but was nonetheless welcomed to the exclusive cocktail hour by hosts Dan Abrams and Aidan McLaughlin. Bartenders worked tirelessly serving Manhattans, cosmos and Old Fashioneds to some of the biggest names in TV media.

A healthy Fox News contingent was in attendance: Bill Hemmer, Charles Payne, Jimmy Failla, Julie Banderas, Bryan Llenas, Abby Hornacek, Steve Doocy in a fetching tartan blazer. Cockburn talked with The Five’s Jessica Tarlov about her time in London and had (another) heated discussion about the World Cup with Kennedy, who was on crutches following her latest triathlon injury.

Ghosts of Fox News past were also present: Cockburn clocked Megyn Kelly upon arrival — and later saw the towering frame of Bill O’Reilly entering and slinking off to one side. Cockburn also shared his Vienna travel tips with Ann Coulter, who was accompanied by her friend Mickey Kaus.

Survivors of CNN’s drift to the middle came for a Christmas tipple too: Jim Acosta, Elie Honig, Kaitlan Collins and Oliver Darcy all made appearances at some point throughout the evening. Brian Stelter, formerly of this parish, also showed up midway through.

Cockburn drifted around the venue, making ample use of the free bar and brushing shoulders with various other hacks: Semafor’s Maxwell Tani, New York Post business ingénue Lydia Moynihan, the Daily Beast‘s Corbin Bolies, a face-masked Andrew Ross Sorkin of CNBC, MSNBC’s Ari Melber, who was talking up his passion for the outdoors with some young staff from his network. Your correspondent learned how Sean Spicer, a fan of The Spectator, came to have his own personal tailor, whose artisanship can be seen in every Newsmax show.

Well oiled and full of Christmas cheer, Cockburn headed into the bitter December night and offered a prayer to St. Dymphna that he would go unmolested on the subway.