Correspondents’ Dinner 2018: A Tale of 2 Parties

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Bryan Sanders arrive for the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner at the Washington Hilton. Photo by Neshan H. Naltchayan

Not so long ago, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was one of the biggest, most talked about social, media and celebrity events of the year.

It was quite a party. The president — whomsoever that may have been — came and did a stand-up routine. Donald Trump, still not quite a presidential candidate, came once and was speared by President Barack Obama, something he has not apparently gotten over.

It was so snazzy that other parties were created around it. It had an after-party, a before-party, a when-the-sun-comes-up party. Never were there so many politicians, political candidates and media types — including and especially Washington reporters — gathered together. Hollywood stars were invited to their homes and tables.

It was, as a New York Times reporter decided, worthy of a book in which he described the nexus of politics, media and celebrity.

My, how times change. The president — that Trump fella — no longer goes to the White House Correspondents’ dinner, which is still held, complete with other parties. The biggest celebrity at this year’s dinner, on April 28, was Kathy Griffin, which mortified some, but not many, observers.

The president held his own party in a place called Washington, Michigan — a party that was not so much a party as it was a rally, a campaign rally, a brag-fest, at which he roasted the media instead of the media roasting him. There was, as far as we know, no food.

So, this past weekend, this Saturday night live of dinner and rally, was really a tale of two parties (perhaps in both senses of the word). There was the long-standing tradition — three years, maybe — of a stand-up comedian hosting the D.C. event, skewering the attendees, the president and the media. That was comedian Michelle Wolf’s job and performance.

Depending on whom you talked to, she either did her job or was a talentless so-and-so. She made tasteless comments about the president’s press secretary and was chided for it by the president’s former (and fired) press secretary.

It was a mixed-bag performance — some of it dead on, some of it not.

In Michigan, President Trump did something similar, in the sense that he too went after the media. But, also in typical fashion, he bragged on himself, critiqued the dinner, took all the credit for the warm-up between the two Koreas and so forth.

Sometimes, there was the temptation to try and imagine what would have happened if, for some reason, the president had shown up accidentally to host the Correspondents’ Dinner and Wolf had ended up in Michigan.

As it was, we will no doubt see the president again at his rallies, still his second or third favorite idea for a fun night out, not counting dinner with Macron, a 24-hour Twitterfest or a half hour on “Fox & Friends.”

Meanwhile, some folks on both sides of the great political divide have suggested that the dinner may be on the outs very soon.

Would that be an occasion for a frowny face or a happy face? I mean, whose town is it anyway, if it can’t be “Our Town”?

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