There’s No Excuse for Celebrating Incompetence

White House Press Room Seal_Where Excuses Go to Die

The W.H. Correspondents’ Dinner rewards nonfulfillment.

I’m one of those people who respect the President, his family, and their values. I just wish the spectacle of immunity that is the 99th White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner didn’t make me queazy for my country.

It’s nauseating that the self-approving lifestyles and arrogance of our government’s elite will be inescapable when comedy highlights saturate the media this week. What is there for Washington bureaucrats to celebrate these days besides themselves? Our gullibility, maybe?

The whole letting their guard down angle seems increasingly phony when our leaders guard nothing but their own command. Cutesy clips of politicians’ one-liners and zingers aren’t worth having to watch ’em kiss the asses of High Media — and vice-versa. Assurances that our President can be as loose and sharp as Patton Oswalt in the face of pressure isn’t exactly what we need these days, not when his most sulfurous faultfinders and foes are enjoying their salads a few feet away. 

White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner_AP Photo–Haraz N. GhanbariMaybe the Correspondents’ Dinner was more relevant back when everyone in the White House Press Room could feel the tension coming from Sam Donaldson — when the two sides in need of dropping their guards were the journalists and All the Presidents Men, not the entire country. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner meant a little more when it was full of inside jokes, when it wasn’t so relatable to the public and tailored for the Internet. Now it’s gone past even that: today it feels like it’s being used on us.

Don’t agree? Okay look, I know it’s not a bunga bunga party. But Obama taking the stage to the lyrical rap beat, “All I do is win win win no matter what,” then asking attendees how they liked his new entrance music, is funny, and not because the president is winning. It’s bitterly humorous ’cause, given the climate in Washington, few are going to see this presidency as the bringer of change it was sold as. It’s funny ’cause he’s not winning.

Considering that the Belgians just bought Budweiser, gas is still $4 a gallon, and many of the Correspondents’ Dinner guests are bowing to corporate pressure like never before, this isn’t really a funny kind of funny. Our government is effectively paralyzed, so why reward it by watching Hollywood help to divert our attention from its bureaucratic blood clots? Oh right, we’re “letting our guard down.”

White House Correspondents' Dinner 2013_Hollywood ReporterSo, what’s the First Lady wearing? If we’re gonna stop dwelling on the near Roman Empire-sized gulf that exists between rich and poor in this country, we’ll need these sorts of distractions. (Thanks celebrity guests!) We’ll need more assurances that our President can be hilarious (while America takes a back seat to corruption and corporate control).

Originally, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner wasn’t intended to pacify the public’s discontent or divert attention from its grievances. But that’s what it’s being called upon to do in its modern omnipresence – with subtle, real-time revisions to boot.

It’s bread and circuses for sure. And God help us, we just don’t care.

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2 Responses to “There’s No Excuse for Celebrating Incompetence”

  1. Chris says:

    99th version of this? Makes one wonder what the earlier WH Correspondents Dinners were like.
    Constantine O’Brien: “I do not mean to raise anyone’s dander, but President Coolidge is so boring…”
    CROWD: “How boring is he?”
    Constantine O’Brien: “President Coolidge is so boring he can not even entertain a doubt.
    But seriously folks… the Kellog-Briand Act? Really? War…huh…what is it good for, am I right?”

    [P.S. Thanks for the link to “bread and circuses”. I had never heard it, and now I can’t wait to use it]

  2. Chris says:

    Regarding Correspondents Dinner as a whole, I’m not nearly as irked by this annual convergence at the D.C. Chuckle Hut as you are (although there’s very little about what you wrote that I can reproach). I like the dinner. I find it interesting that POTUS can say things that he would never say from the lectern in the White House briefing room (e.g. “Did you know that Sheldon Adelson spent $100 million of his own money to defeat me? You have to really dislike me to spend that kind of money…”). Why is it that you’re allowed to be more truthful if you phrase your observations in the form of a comedic bit?

    I like that he can highlight the absurdity of his foes: “I’m not the strapping young socialist Muslim I used to be” and the bit about the “photo-shopped” day of skeet-shooting. People need to remember or be reminded of the specious behavior of the Fourth Estate.
    I find it interesting that jokes about certain politicians (Marco Rubio) are crafted with measured language, while jokes about other politicians (Michelle Bachman) sound like they were culled from a.séance with George Carlin’s irascible ghost. In other words, this dinner/roast is a political litmus test of sorts (Rubio=alkaline, Bachman=acid).

    What I didn’t like was the manner in which NPR and PBS were mocked for essentially providing news the way Edward R. Murrow used to deliver it, restrained and stoic. (“NPR…still the number one source for news delivered as though there were a toddler sleeping in the next room.” That got a medium-sized laugh. “If the media were a high school cafeteria…NPR would be the kids with peanut allergies.” That got a huge laugh. Yet CNN jokes were received with the sort of ambivalence the pretty girls exude when you make fun of the other pretty girls..

    When all is said and done, the WH Correspondents Dinner will always hold a special place in my comedic heart because of 2006…when Stephen Colbert stood within a beer bong’s striking distance of Bush the Lesser and said this:
    “I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound—with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.”

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