White House Correspondents Dinner: Lots of Fun and Lots of Politics


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.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons


16 comments on “White House Correspondents Dinner: Lots of Fun and Lots of Politics

  1. Carroll says:

    Where is Tom Wolfe?
    He should be at these DC parties picking out characters for a sequel to his “Bonfire of the Vanities.”


  2. downtown says:

    Why was the guy with the (fake) orange hair and the
    multiple bankruptcies and wives even
    invited…inquiring minds would like to know.


  3. Kathleen says:

    My favorite correspondence dinner was when Colbert went for it. Did not hold back. Have not watched Meyers yet. Did he go after Obama’s peace in the middle east coming in the form of drones and not doves..or did he tip toe?
    Colbert…one of the best things I have ever watched. Colbert


  4. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Oh!!! Lookie here, some Americans that have found the “peace” that Obama promised us, and that won him the prize.
    *Mother of Soldier (NJ) Slain in Iraq: ”Why So Much War? Why Are Our Young People Dying?’
    *Father of Slain Soldier From Palau: ‘I Never Understood Why He Wanted to Be a Soldier’
    *Afghan Missile Attack Kills Army Trauma Nurse From Ohio
    *Army Sergeant From Newark (OH) Planned to Retire This Year
    *Philadelphia (PA) Soldier Killed in Afghanistan Was to Return Home in Two Weeks
    *Father Mourns Fallen Marine: ‘I Lost My Best Friend’ (WA)
    *Town Bids Farewell to Fallen Shell Rock (IA) Soldier
    *Bomb Disposal Marine From Gaylord (MI) Killed by IED
    *Greencastle (PA) Spec Ops Soldier Killed Serving Afghanistan
    *Family, Friends Remember Fallen Texas Soldier
    *Iowa Guardsman Killed by Small Arms Fire in Afghanistan
    *Helicopter Pilot From Henderson (NC) Killed in Afghan Crash
    *Colorado Soldier From Westminster Dies in Iraq
    *Marine (VA) Had ‘A Lust for Life, Loved Having Fun, Playing the Guitar’
    *Nebraska Sailor Supporting Operation New Dawn Dies Aboard Carrier in Arabian Sea
    *Germantown (OH) Remembers Marine Killed in Afghanistan
    *Army Recruiter Dad to Bring Son’s Body Home (NE)
    *South Lyon (MI) Marine Killed by Roadside Bomb in Afghanistan
    BTW, April was the deadliest month since 2009 in Iraq for our servicemen and women. Anyone know any jokes about that???
    Yuk yuk, pour me another toddy.


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Interesting. A comedian that uses the truth as tool to bring us to mirth. Undoubtedly, one of the few people there that gives a damn about reality.
    A list of “regular folk” that attended this affair would be enlightening, wouldn’t it? Sometimes the blank pages tell us more than the essays do.
    Seth Meyers….


  6. Ted Williams says:

    As a counterpoint to the hoopla surrounding the Correspondents
    Dinner and all the pre-and post- dinner events, you might want to
    check out Dana Milbank’s column in today’s Sunday WP. I think
    Dana’s reasons for opting out of the whole thing are sound and
    probably should be taken to heart by anyone claiming to be a
    journalist in this town.


  7. rc says:

    Screw the party — I think this aggression on Libya is outrageous!
    “MUAMMAR Gaddafi escaped injury when a NATO missile struck a house in Tripoli, killing the Libyan leader’s youngest son and three grandchildren…”
    Whether the guy is a jerk or not, he is as much the current government of Libya as the Saudi Puppets are in their fiefdom.
    What UN (or any) mandate is there for this state based assassination? It was about a “no fly zone”, not a frick’n killing spree of women and children!
    Almost total control of the western mass media media will not hide this blatant hypocrisy. Great evil was poured on Iraq and now the rerun on Libya. How long before the depleted uranium showers start?


  8. DonS says:

    And, for another view, from the ordinary world:
    “Late Night: Useless, Snotty, Airhead Aristocracy Wastes World


  9. questions says:

    And here we go again!
    “In Ellsinore, the creeping problem has strained the bonds of its 446 residents. People recognize the symptoms of use in neighbors but, reflecting a culture of fierce independence, say nothing. ”
    Not the wicked “code of silence” that must be broken in, ummm, *urban* neighborhoods. Nope. This here is FIERCE independence.
    No wonder Trump is Trump. This is his language, too.
    and from the same article:


  10. questions says:

    Obama’s most devastating line was his most serious one, at the end, when he praised the bravery of the journalists who actually risk their lives to tell the stories of the world.
    Compare/contrast with the nonsense we get.
    That is the story of the evening.
    Why spend time on “Trump” when there are real people, when there is real suffering, when there is a real story to tell.


  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Susan Rice


  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Fantastic. We should be really proud of our fine nation tonight. We killed Gadhafi’s youngest son, and three of his grandchildren under the age of 12. That’ll teach that SOB to dare to ally himself with us, by God. Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?
    I see the rebels are in a state of celebration, shouting “Allahu Akbar” from the rooftops. Honking horns, fireworks, even.
    A major victory, this killing of children!!! Yes indeed, God is great, we murdered three children in Libya!
    Hallelujah!!! Kill ’em all, and let God sort ’em out.
    Hold your head high, America, we’re on a humanitarian roll!
    Pay attention, Arabs. This is what you get when you play footsies with the United States. If you get on our good side……


  13. Dan Kervick says:

    As the nation’s political leaders and media leaders luxuriate in their affable solidarity, and defiantly celebrate the imperviousness of their privileged circle to the vexatious importunings of citizen outsiders, perhaps one tactless skunk in the mix will work up enough native courage – or imbibe enough liquid courage – to interrupt the garden party with a series of stinking questions for the President:
    “Barack Obama, why have you and your political advisers betrayed the nation’s unemployed, underemployed and economically desperate millions through neglect, dishonesty and avoidance?”
    “Barack Obama, why does the first black President in American history daily pass over the ghastly unemployment rates among Africa-Americans with barely a word, and regard their miserable economic prospect with such cool and unflappable detachment?”
    “Barack Obama, why have you squandered and disdained the moral inheritance of the party of Roosevelt?”
    “Barack Obama, who are you? What are you? What are your values?”


  14. yuk it up says:

    ” But what the heck, maybe Obama can cut a few more drone killing jokes tonight at the White House Correspondents Dinner nerdprom. He seems to really like that kind of humor.”


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