The annual bacchanal of self-importance and self-righteous celebration that is the White House Correspondents Association Dinner should have been laid to rest years ago. It was never a noble idea, no matter how nostalgic its defenders are for the days when “bipartisanship” rendered such parties harmless.
That golden age never existed, but it was once possible to ignore the fact that American politics is anything but a blood sport. Facebook, Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle have shone a harsh light on what elite journalists and the power brokers they allegedly hold accountable do when they get together in the dark.
What comedian Michelle Wolf dared say at Saturday’s WHCA dinner has been the “outrage du jour” for going on a week. She crossed a line, critics say. Went too far. Over the top. Even the weasels at the WHCA disavowed Wolf, who they hired:
“Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting and sponsorship winners, not to divide people,” WHCA President Margaret Talev wrote in a lame statement no serious journalist would accept from an elected or corporate official. “Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.”
Wolf said a bunch of true things the swells in the audience needed to hear. She spoke truth to power (you know, like journalists are supposed to do) and spat some truly funny lines:
“I am 32 years old, which is an odd age — 10 years too young to host this event, and 20 years too old for Roy Moore.”
“It is kind of crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan.”
“You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.”
Amen. Testify, Sister Wolf.
It’s a shame such sharp barbs were followed by lame lashes at low-hanging fruit. Wolf’s nasty attacks on White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders were cheap, mean and brutally unfunny. Sanders has an historically loose relationship with truth, but a feminist comedian sniping about the looks of another professional woman seems woefully out of place in the age of #metoo.
That said, Trump and his cultish followers have said much more vulgar things about Hillary and the Obamas. That doesn’t give Wolf or anyone else license to behave like the Bully-in-Chief.
When they go low, we go almost as low? No thanks.
Still, the pearl-clutching on the right over Wolf’s monologue is precious. In October 2016, I wrote this column about a jerk who attended a Trump rally in Wilkes-Barre Twp. wearing a T-shirt that called Hillary Clinton the C-word. He wore it in public with his children in tow, but didn’t have the guts to answer when I asked him to stand behind the word on his chest.
Like most slavish servants of Trump, he saw any attack on those he didn’t like as righteous. Any attack on his idols was blasphemy. Such hypocrisy is among the most noxious poisons flowing through our body politic.
The WHCA dinner is a malignant manifestation of a similar strain of hypocrisy. Its organizers and attendees should listen to Michelle Wolf, and end this annual embarrassment now.