Monday, April 23, 2007

Bush Gets It Right at the White House Correspondents Dinner

From my "Capital Games" column at

President Bush finally got something right.

On Saturday night, he was--as usual--at the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. This is official Washington's version of a prom. Be-tuxed and be-gowned journalists and government officials wine, dine, and schmooze--and stargaze at real and faux Hollywood celebs who are imported for the evening. One ritual of the night is for the president to deliver a self-deprecating comedy routine before the glammed-out crowd of 3000. At a similar event, three years ago, Bush joked about the missing WMDs in Iraq. Two years ago at the correspondents' bash, Laura Bush ribbed her husband, cracking jokes that (by presidential standards) were off-color. Last year, Bush appeared with a Bush impersonator and performed a masterful bit before Stephen Colbert took the stage and hilariously but harshly spoofed the administration and the Washington press corps.

This year the pre-event buzz was about Rich Little, the has-been (but still appearing 30 weeks a year in Vegas) comic impersonator. He had been selected as the evening's funny-man--and widely perceived as a white-flag choice by the correspondents' association. (Knowing a little about the internal process that led to the Little pick, I do not share that perception. Several edgier comics were approached first and said no.) In the run-up to the dinner, there was not much talk about what Bush would do.

When the president took his turn at the podium, he surprised. Referring to the tragic shooting spree at Virginia Tech, he said, "I've decided not to be funny." He spoke for a few brief moments about the massacre and sat down. That certainly did not tee up the crowd for Little, who immediately followed Bush and essentially bombed with a routine based on his 70s-style impersonations of presidents and Johnny Carson. (Far funnier was a short film showing a Top Ten list of "George W. Bush moments" that David Letterman created for the dinner.)

By invoking the Virginia Tech massacre to opt out of the usual yuks, Bush was able to dodge a task that he supposedly does not enjoy. But he did send a message: reality sometimes trumps frivolity. Of course, he should have followed such advice in past years when he kidded about the absent WMDs he had used as the primary justification for his invasion of Iraq and when he and Laura laughed it up without saying a word about the US soldiers stationed (and dying) in Iraq. Well, better late than never.

I attend these events and have fun, but I also feel uneasy at them, as journalists and officials laugh away political and policy differences that have tremendous life-and-death consequences outside the Washington Hilton ballroom. (Thankfully, there's plenty of free booze.) This year it was odd to see big-name reporters and government officials drool over losers from American Idol, such as Sanjaya Malakar. (No one at Washington black-tie parties ever pushes through a crowd to have a picture taken with Michael Dukakis.) And when Dan Glickman, the former Democratic congressman who now heads the Motion Picture Association of America, reminded the crowd of the line from Inherit the Wind that "it is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," I nearly choked on my dinner roll. There were few people in the grand room who adhere to this principle. In fact, a key mission of the night for many news organizations was to fete the brand-name administration officials they had managed to snag as guests--that is, to make sure the comfortable were comfortable.

With such a contradiction swirling about, Bush's downbeat message (even if it saved him from an assignment he does not relish) was appropriate. And it did--via gentle implication--call into question the fundamental dynamics of the evening, though probably unintentionally. If only he had shown such sensitivity earlier in his presidency.

With my sermon thus concluded, here are a few tidbits from the evening:

* I overheard a not-for-attribution conversation between a big-name journalist and a senior administration official, in which the official noted that a problem with the nuclear negotiations between North Korea and Washington is that neocon diehard John Bolton still has his hands in the soup. The ex-UN ambassador is no longer part of the administration. But Bolton allies within the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House, this official explained, are trying to undermine the deal struck by the administration with North Korea to freeze its nuclear weapons program. These aides, this official said, do not fancy any nonproliferation negotiations with North Korea, believing such talks only legitimize the North Korean regime. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the official reported, is holding back the neocons. But, the official added, Bolton is in there fighting.

* World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, besieged due to the revelation he hooked up his girlfriend, a World Bank official, with a hefty raise, looked downcast at the dinner. But he managed to make it to Vanity Fair's post-dinner party at Christopher Hitchens' apartment. Also there was Justice Antonin Scalia, who was challenged by Ana Marie Cox (a.k.a. the original Wonkette) on the Supreme Court's recent decision upholding the ban on a late-term abortion procedure. States' rights, the justice argued, overlooking the point that his court had okayed a national ban on this procedure.

* Senator Fred Thompson told Republican/conservative analyst David Bass that he has to "keep Corn in check." This was a reference to a weekly video I do on the presidential race for Usually my partner is conservative writer Richard Miniter. But Bass has been filling in for Miniter these past few weeks, while Miniter has been in Iraq. So Thompson is paying attention to what's being said about him on the Internet. Does this indicate he will run for president? Maybe he has too much time on his hands. Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain were also at the dinner. But the leading Democratic presidential candidates were not. "Obama's in a Super 8 in Iowa tonight," one of his aides said, with a laugh. And when Romney had a chance to say hello to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he took a pass. The entry into the Republican presidential contest of another rich GOPer who could self-finance a campaign would certainly not be good for Romney.

* Actress Morgan Fairchild knows more about terrorism than 99.9 percent Americans--and most members of Congress. At a pre-dinner party, she engaged in a detailed conversation with Mark Hosenball, one of Newsweek's terrorism experts (who writes a column with Michael Isikoff, who co-authored Hubris with me). Fairchild and Hosenball discussed specific terrorist suspects by name. Not many people can keep up with Hosenball on the specifics of global terrorism. Fairchild did.

* Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left the dinner as soon as it finished.

Posted by David Corn at April 23, 2007 11:32 AM


Saladin said...

John Kerry: Building 7 Was Deliberately Demolished

Questioned on WTC 7 by members of Austin 9/11 Truth Now at a Book People event in Austin Texas, Kerry responded, "I do know that that wall, I remember, was in danger and I think they made the decision based on the danger that it had in destroying other things, that they did it in a controlled fashion."
Posted Apr 23, 2007 08:46 AM PST

Except that it takes more than a few hours to rig a building for a controlled demolition, John, which means the building was rigged to go BEFORE the planes hit.
Wall? Was that a screw-up or what?

micki said...

"I was looking forward to doing a little poking myself but in light of this tragedy at Virginia Tech I decided not to be funny," bush said.

I don't know why David Corn thinks "bush gets it right at the WF correspondents dinner..."

One implication in bush's quote is that he believes he has been funny in the past. Not true. Also, a tragedy of monumental proportions -- much larger than the one at VA Tech -- is played out every single damned day in Iraq, thanks to bush and his unfunny boyfriends.

Gerald said...

With all the carnage in Iraq and soon to be Iran I would find it hard to attend some of these gala events.

Saladin said...

Gerald, apparently some people can party through anything. What a farce. Mordor on the Potomac has no soul and no heart.

capt said...

Nanotechnology may help heal the body

A new U.S. animal study suggests nanotechnology might lead to new treatments for spinal cord injuries, diabetes and other diseases.

Samuel Stupp, director of the Institute of BioNanotechnology in Medicine at Northwestern University is combining nanotechnology and biology to enable the body to heal itself -- and he reports achieving amazing early results.

In one demonstration of what nanotechnology might achieve in regenerative medicine, Stupp said paralyzed lab mice with spinal cord injuries regained the ability to walk using their hind limbs six weeks after an injection of a purpose-designed nanomaterial.

"By injecting molecules that were designed to self-assemble into nanostructures in the spinal tissue, we have been able to rescue and regrow rapidly damaged neurons," said Stupp during a Monday presentation in Washington sponsored by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

The research was presented Monday at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and appears in the journal NanoFrontiers: Visions for the Future of Nanotechnology.


Gerald said...

Saladin, I believe that attendance at these bashes is obscene.

Saladin said...

Gerald, I believe a trip to the Green Zone may sober them up.

David B. Benson said...

I just checked the Mars rover site at JPL.

Amazing. Both are still functioning, although slowing done a bit...

Gerald said...

Saladin, I would like to believe that a trip to the Green Zone, Southern Sudan, New Orleans, etc. would sober these people up but I have my doubts. Nazi Americans lust for blood and carnage.

Gerald said...

Praying Each Day: April 24

Gerald said...

The War Goes Ever On

Gerald said...

Bush claims that he invaded Iraq because he so highly values democracy that he desired to establish one in Iraq as an example for other Middle Eastern countries to follow. However, what Bush has demonstrated to Muslims is that American democracy is unresponsive to citizens and voters. Bush has demonstrated to the world that the U.S. government is controlled by a small oligopoly of vested interests, the public be damned. Democracy means a government that follows the will of the people. Bush is ignoring public opinion and has made it clear that he will continue the practice.

Bush has shown the world that the only difference between American dictatorship and other dictatorships is that, for now, Americans are permitted to remove their dictator after his term is served.


Gerald said...

The bullshit coming out of Israel is starting to gag me

Gerald said...

The bullshit is really deep. Let Israel attack Iran and keep her mouth shout about more American soldiers being killed.

And from the March/April 2007 issue of Israel My Glory, published by the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, we read:

But annihilating the Jewish state is merely a warm-up. Although the lynchpin of Ahmadinejad’s crusade is a first-strike success against his near neighbor Israel, the next move is westward to Europe and then on to finish off the hated United States.

Another piece in Israel My Glory quotes Benjamin Netanyahu as saying that “unless the United States stops Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, America has only two to five years left.”

So basically, unless the United States attacks Iran now, Iran will destroy the entire world. Right.

The only thing Iran can destroy in America is the boil on my ass.

Gerald said...

Reading what Benjamin Netanyahu says about Iran makes me puke more than when Bush speaks. Netanyahu is the really big puke!!!

Gerald said...

I truly see more converts for Islam with each passing day.

Saladin said...

"Bush has demonstrated to the world that the U.S. government is controlled by a small oligopoly of vested interests, the public be damned."

Gerald, all empires end up on this road to hell sooner or later. It is a symptom of the end. They all expire and ours will as well. We have no one to stand up for the rule of law, no one even knows what it is anymore, lawyers have turned it into a worse quagmire than bush ever could.

Hajji said...

Nothing In This World Is What You Are Being Told - What's a Commoner to Do?


For those who didn't catch it at WRH

Dennis is certainly an interesting fellow. I should have his book (Working Titles..."From Pastor to Bastard"..."Born Again, Again"...or "Born Right the FIRST Time"...edited by...Summer's end? I dunno.

Who'da'thunkit that editing would be such "hard work"?


capt said...

New Thread!