WASHINGTON — Now we know how the story ends.
President Barack Obama’s last event at the White House was a rollicking good time, honoring the Chicago Cubs on Monday for winning the 2016 World Series.
Obama’s team has spent months planning his final days, and then they were tossed this wonderful curveball. As soon as the Cubs beat the Indians in the 10th inning at 12:47 p.m. Eastern time on Nov. 3, Obama sent a tweet inviting them to the White House.
The Cubs organization and the White House scrambled to make sure the Chicago president applauded the Chicago Cubs on his watch.
“Let’s Go Cubbies” everyone in the East Room chanted in that distinctive singsong as Obama entered, as if they were at Wrigley Field or a saloon.
“They said this day would never come,” Obama said with relish, even though he roots for the White Sox.
“Here is something none of my predecessors ever got a chance to say: Welcome to the White House the World Series Champion, Chicago Cubs!
“I will say to the Cubs: It took you long enough. I mean, I’ve only got four days left. You’re just making it under the wire.
“Now, listen, I made a lot of promises in 2008. We’ve managed to fulfill a large number of them. But even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years we would see the Cubs win the World Series. But I did say that there’s never been anything false about hope. Hope — the audacity of hope,” Obama said, invoking the title of his best-selling book.
What a send-off, just days before Obama’s term ends at noon on Friday.
He’s done tons of events in the East Room these past eight years, and now this was it. What a made-for-Chicago finale.
The East Room was packed. Everyone there who wasn’t a player or connected to the Cubs had to be a somebody or have some clout to get in. By that I mean people who knew people at the Obama White House.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff, was in a front row, sitting next to his younger brother, Ari, the Hollywood agent. The AP has reported that Ari and Obama have talked about things he might do in his post-presidency.
Among those present from the elected world: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, with daughter Rebecca; freshman Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and his son, Vijay; Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.; Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill.; Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; former White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod, with his son, Ethan; State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago.
Quigley and Feigenholtz feel a bit proprietary about the Cubs, because Wrigley Field is in their respective North Side districts.
The mood was giddy, tinged with bittersweet — but not for everybody, because there were Republicans in the room.
President-elect Donald Trump tapped Cubs board member Todd Ricketts to be his deputy Commerce secretary. Cubs board chair Tom is a fellow conservative. Their sister, Cubs board member Laura Ricketts, is a big-time Democratic donor and fundraiser who has been with Obama since he ran for the Senate, and a major Hillary Clinton supporter.
Laura Ricketts is the lone Democrat in a powerful Republican family — brother Pete is the GOP governor of Nebraska and the Ricketts kids parents, Marlene and Joe Ricketts, are mega donors to GOP and conservative candidates and causes.
“We’re just glad we were able to get this organized,” Laura Ricketts told me. “It’s hard to get all the players together.” After the “long, arduous, emotional season for them, they scattered to the winds to relax after the season was over. Glad with the president’s busy schedule and the tight time frame, we could work this out.”
Kim Grimshaw Bolton and her brother, Chris Grimshaw, were determined to be among those present. For many years, their folks, longtime civic activists Jacquelyne and Bill Grimshaw — Bill passed away in March — lived in the house next to the Obamas on South Greenwood. Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Tina Tchen, is a longtime friend of Kim’s mom, and she got them in.
Said Bolton, “This president was a close friend of my family and this team has been such a part of my growing up and my family. To be here and have this be his last official event is extraordinary.”