Take the Correspondents’ Dinner…Please!

I write this with some hesitation, because it might merely confirm the notion that I am fast becoming a crotchety old man, but here goes: it’s time to get rid of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. In the old days—pre-YouTube and Twitter—the dinner was a more-or-less private affair. There would be some quotes in the papers afterwards, but that was about it. Now it’s streamed live and can be watched on tape by millions, and it’s begun to have the feel of one of those interminable Hollywood awards shows. The jokes are dissected not only for humor content, but for balance and hidden meanings. Presidents are criticized for being insensitive to real problems, while emcees are damned or praised, usually depending on the political leanings of the listener. The targets of the barbs are expected to smile good-naturedly while everyone else is squirming in their seats, trying to pretend the whole evening isn’t more than a bit unseemly. I’ve been to a few of these events, and my squirming became so severe that I stopped attending.

The dinner was a good idea at its inception back in 1920. After all, we Americans rather like the idea that our presidents aren’t royalty, and we take pride in the fact that we are allowed to poke fun at them (I don’t recall many Castro roasts). But maybe it’s the growing mean-spiritedness of contemporary humor, or maybe it’s the nature of the problems facing the country and the world, but the whole thing comes off as sort of—if you’ll pardon a technical term—icky. Besides which, we don’t need these dinners to see the “lighter side” of our presidents. Between the tweeting and the talk shows, there’s no shortage of opportunities for our leaders to show us just how funny they are. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind having more chances to see how serious they are. 

  1. Indaba

    Well done for pointing out that some ritual or process no longer serves the original purpose. Too bad you were not on the board of Kodak.

  2. FeliciaB

    The best White House Correspondents’ Dinner ever was the one where Steve Bridges performed alongside President G.W. Bush (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4N93jLVPIA).  They should have stopped having them after that and ended on a high note.

  3. Misthiocracy

    I don’t understand why it’s held in April.

    I’m sympathetic to the idea that the White House might want to host a light-hearted social occasion for the poor, ink-stained wretches of the press corps.

    However, it seems that December would be a more appropriate time for kindly fellowship and the breaking of bread with the members of the fourth estate.

  4. Nathaniel Wright

    I find the entire premise of a “Coorespondent’s Dinner” to smack of the royal court of France. It seems like yet another opportunity for the President and the Press to meet with one another under “exclusive” circumstances and only serves to make the Press Participants feel special and above the average citizen. The mere existance of a term like “media elite” rankles my American sensibilities. By all means Roast the President, but don’t have such a roast be part of an exclusive club.

  5. Misthiocracy
    Nathaniel Wright: I find the entire premise of a “Coorespondent’s Dinner” to smack of the royal court of France. It seems like yet another opportunity for the President and the Press to meet with one another under “exclusive” circumstances and only serves to make the Press Participants feel special and above the average citizen. The mere existance of a term like “media elite” rankles my American sensibilities. By all means Roast the President, but don’t have such a roast be part of an exclusive club. · 1 minute ago

    Since it’s broadcast for all to see, it isn’t all that exclusive, no?

  6. Misthiocracy

    Question: Who organizes it, the White House or the Correspondents Association?

    If it’s the Correspondents Association, then could you imagine the firestorm if the President declined the invitation to attend as guest of honour?

  7. DocJay

    Stop them. We are a divided nation and the journalists have taken their side.

  8. James Of England

    If the abolition of the Correspondent’s Dinner is a big deal to you, that’s a serious mark against Romney.  I feel confident that he’ll look forward to them all year. On the plus side, his jokes would be broad enough, and groan-worthy enough, that they’d be difficult to analyze too deeply.

  9. James Of England
    FeliciaB: The best White House Correspondents’ Dinner ever was the one where Steve Bridges performed alongside President G.W. Bush (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4N93jLVPIA).  They should have stopped having them after that and ended on a high note. ·

    If they’d stopped having them after the Colbert attacks that night, they’d have gotten some awful press, and they’d have been right.

    Plus, it’s good to have a chance to see the character of the man. I watched the Obama presentation and thought it was wonderful for us, purse-lipped, petty, and partisan. During the whole 15 minutes, there’s five self-deprecating jokes, one a mixed anti-Romney, anti-GSA joke about how nice the Hilton ballroom was (6:45 ), another about the Hunger Games being like Romney’s primary, but without enough class warfare for Obama, a dog reference, a dogs are delicious unlike Palin joke, and a third dog joke/ “negative ad” that, at 12:15, was the only bit worth watching.

    There are endless partisan snipes, of which the most effective seemed to be the (Kimmel’s) Man Show/ House “contraception” hearing jab.  I think it makes him seem less likable.

  10. Pseudodionysius

    We should use them in perpetuity to extract intelligence from terrorist operatives detained at Guantanimo Bay. Its the media’s version of waterboarding and likely very effective.

  11. David Williamson

    Actually, I kinda like the dinner (not that I am ever invited).

    It shows that we are still a democracy, where the Supreme Leader can still be made fun-of, without the comedian being sent off to the salt mines, or audited by the IRS…

    Oh, wait…

  12. Bob Cotten

    Two things come to mind:

    1.  Regarding Obama:  “The shallower the pond the muddier the water.”

    2.  Regarding Colbert:  “Mockery is the wit of the stupid.”

    No, wait.  Make that three:

    “Things which already are as funny as they’re going to get can not be parodied.”

     

  13. AaronNYC

    I’m not old enough to be a curmudgeon but having the President perform borscht belt humor in front of Lindsey Lohan is pretty demeaning.   I know it raises money for charity and all.  Why can’t he just host a charity fundraiser or something.  I know, how about a night with the President at the Westminister Kennel Club… I’m very sorry, I couldn’t help it.

  14. Peter Robinson
    C

    I don’t recall many Castro roasts.

    Leave it to Pat Sajak to sum up everything you need to know about Communism in one apparently light-hearted, but actually very, very profound, aside.  Perfect.

  15. Sisyphus

    I understand that Kimmel failed to secure the Emperor’s pardon before his performance. As that plays out it may put the kabosh on the whole idea. But I thought it a fitting last Correspondents’ Dinner for the Regime.

  16. flownover

    If Don Rickles isn’t going to be on, what was the point anyway ?

    Pat is spot-on about this media orgy . It’s excesses ,Greta vonSusteren with Lindsay Lohan, have turned it into a debauch. 

    Way too Roman.  Can you imagine Foster Brooks  sloshing after Nero , only to be put to death on the podium ?

    Was Jimmy Kimmel a nod to Ben Stein ? or his money ??

  17. The Great Adventure!

    Hey Pat – just noticed the good folks over at Hot Air linked this to their site!  Way to go.

  18. Terrell David

    your right Pat.  great point