Clarification to This Article
An April 23 article in the New York Times quoted presidential advisor Karl Rove one time. In asking "What's the point of sitting next to a newsmaker if you can't quote him when he makes news?," this column's Rove Blows item suggested that the Times article didn't quote Rove.

A Delusional Dinner

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, April 23, 2007; 2:36 PM

The annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner is always surreal -- a boozy scrum of frenetic bonhomie among Washington's top news-makers and news-gatherers, ostensibly a well-deserved respite from all the accumulated tension of their otherwise relentlessly adversarial relationship.

But I was struck by what seemed to be among the sentiments emanating from the head-table:

* That a has-been impressionist was a more appropriate choice for entertainment than the acerbic and brilliant political satirist who last year hurt some people's feelings.

* That the tragic Virginia Tech massacre required solemn observation and expressions of great respect, while the seemingly endless war that often claims as many victims in a day deserved virtually no mention at all.

* That a night full of journalists sucking up to their sources is not just defensible but actually honorable because of all the aggressive reporting that goes on every other day.

President Bush attended Saturday night's dinner but chose for the first time in his war-torn presidency to avoid making the obligatory humorous speech on the grounds that "it's been a tough week for a lot of folks, particularly the folks at Virginia Tech."

(One couldn't help contrast his new-found reticence with the time in March 2004 when he controversially narrated a slide show showing pictures of him looking under the Oval Office furniture and saying: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere.")

On Saturday night, Bush wasn't suggesting that the whole evening should be a downer -- "You know, we've got to learn to laugh in this town," he said. But then he introduced the night's headliner, "a talented and good man, Rich Little."

This is how Little launched one of the longest half-hours in show business history: "I want to tell you right off the top that I am not a political satirist," he said. "I'm an impersonator, basically. I do a lot of impressions, and some of them are politicians. You know, I'm a nightclub entertainer that tells a lot of dumb, silly, stupid jokes. You know?"

We know.

The night's biggest prize for defensiveness, however, went to the White House Correspondents Association's president, Steve Scully of C-Span. "I'd like for just a moment to talk . . . about this dinner, because it has received its fair share of criticism [from] those who question whether reporters and their sources should dine together at a night like this," Scully said. "Now our job is to question policies and look at events with a skeptical eye. And I have to tell you that one dinner will not change that. . . .

"So let today be an example of what is good about our democracy and our First Amendment. Let us be reminded that an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy, nor does an evening of civility mean we are selling out."


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