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Correction to This Article
In some editions, the article said that Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, John Cusack, Robert De Niro and Brooke Shields were among the celebrities on the evening's guest list. They were originally announced as planning to attend but later withdrew.
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Obama Delivers the Zingers at Journalists' Dinner

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The star power was reminiscent of the Bill Clinton years but with a key difference: Clinton courted Hollywood to augment his pop-culture stature, while Obama doesn't have to.

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Perhaps the biggest pre-party of the weekend took place earlier yesterday, when 500 people mobbed a brunch at the home of veteran newswoman Tammy Haddad. There were so many media figures, politicians and celebrities in the mix that famous faces became wallpaper.

One of the more buzzed-about attendees was Todd Palin, standing in for his wife, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), as a guest of Fox News at the dinner. David Corn, a writer for the liberal magazine Mother Jones, was staggered when lawyer John Coale, husband of Fox News's Greta Van Susteren, pulled him over for a chat with Palin. "I was worried he was going to punch me in the face," Corn said. Instead, he and Palin talked about safe topics: 8-year-old daughters and deep-sea fishing. Naturally, Corn twittered about this.

There was no chance of off-the-record at this gathering: The hostess herself, Haddad, had just launched a blog devoted to reporting the weekend's events 24-7, including "exclusive live coverage" of her brunch.

For media types, the dinner -- staged since 1920 -- has become a major schmooze-fest. Outside the Beltway, this stokes public perception of journalists sucking up to the power elite they cover. But the celebrity onslaught, which has become its own yearly tradition, may temper that critique somewhat: The journalists are more likely to be swooning over the star they've invited than the politicians they know so well.

Obama, for his part, played it all for laughs: "I must confess I really didn't want to be here tonight. But I had to come. That's one more problem I inherited from George Bush." The crowd roared.

Staff writers Amy Argetsinger and Manuel Roig-Franzia contributed to this report.


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