Tonight I am attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as the guest of Talking Points Memo and Joshua Micah Marshall. We have a great table which will include Kati Marton, spouse of the late Richard Holbrooke, and US Ambassador to the OECD Karen Kornbluh who also served as Barack Obama’s policy director when he served in the US Senate.
Seth Meyers is the fun tonight.
National Journal‘s Julia Edwards just provided a nice snapshot of 25 memorable moments at the WHCD, of which this is a short clip:
1924: Calvin Coolidge becomes the first president to attend the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. The dinner was held in the Old Arlington Hotel and 50 people attended.
1930: The dinner is canceled when Chief Justice William Howard Taft, a former president himself, dies on the day of the event, March 8.
1941: President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers the most important speech ever given at the dinner, calling for a commitment to fight the Axis powers. FDR explained his reasoning for using this occasion: “It differs from the press conferences that you and I hold twice a week, for you cannot ask me any questions tonight, and everything that I have to say is word for word on the record.”
1942: One year after FDR’s speech, the dinner is canceled for World War II. The next year, the dinner would be rationed and the president would have to buy his own ticket to attend.
1946: Attire returns to black-tie and food is no longer rationed.
1950: To protest the dinner’s exclusion of women, Navy Undersecretary Dan Kimball hosts a separate dinner for the “underprivileged ladies” of the WHCA.
1951: President Truman asks the WHCA to cancel the dinner because of the “uncertainty of the world situation.”
1954: Irving Berlin unveils an original song, “I Still Like Ike,” to honor President Eisenhower.
1955: Dinner tops 1,000 for the first time.
I will report back about the fun and the political. Last night, fantastic parties hosted by New Yorker‘s David Remnick — followed then by a great after-after party where we had some fun with Sean Penn hosted by National Journal/Atlantic Monthly, Google and Impact/Arts & Film Fund.
Today is Tammy Haddad‘s famous WHCD Garden Brunch — and then a birthday brunch that has nothing to do with the correspondents festivities for Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mark Brzezinski, and Natalia Lopatniuk. Then the dinner — lots of other parties — followed finally by the Bloomberg/Vanity Fair blow out at the French Embassy.
As part of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books history panel judging committee, I read and loved Ron Chernow’s book. Washington: A Life — which did a good job getting into how Washington used cocktail gatherings, dinner parties, and dances to deftly move his political agenda. Chernow’s book did not win the LA Times History Book Prize for 2010 — but it did receive an honorable mention. I highly recommend it.
— Steve Clemons