A blast from the past (July 2016, to be exact) by Dan McLaughlin at NRO.
There’s a lot to digest here, and few people come out of Coppins’ piece looking good; even its author has his own remorse over mocking Trump’s odds of running, as did many of us who had observed his numerous publicity stunt feints in the past. It’s clear that the Romney campaign’s sensible-at-the-time efforts at keeping a safe distance from Trump fed into Trump’s sense of grievance at the GOP, helping egg him on to a campaign aimed at humbling the party and fracturing its voter base. But perhaps the strongest conclusion one can draw from it is that the White House Correspondents’ Dinner should be abolished.
The WHCD was once a sort of icon of well-intentioned false bonhomie, in which the administration and its adversaries in the press would lay down their swords for a night of good-natured ribbing. The president would deliver some self-deprecating humor, sometimes pointedly making light of their own failures: Bill and Hillary Clinton satirizing the “Harry and Louise” ads that sank HillaryCare, George W. Bush doing a mock hunt for missing WMDs. A comedian would come in to roast the President, as Stephen Colbert did to Bush in 2006. True believers and populists hated the way it made light of substance and played into the idea that everybody in DC thinks the whole thing is a game, but there was also a virtue in enforced civility and the Commander-in-Chief eating humble pie for laughs.
IE, it was a self-congratulatory circle-jerk for the guardians of the status quo.
Under President Obama, the dinner has taken on a decidedly different cast: lauded as the “nerd prom,” it confers cool and Hollywood glamor on workaday journalists, and it typically features the President and a left-leaning comedian tag-teaming Obama’s critics, to the laughter of a courtier media that is already predisposed to take the President’s side in such battles. But the 2011 dinner was especially ugly. Coppins details at length how President Obama’s pique at Trump for bringing the “birther” nonsense to a head overrode Obama’s better judgment and led him to tear into Trump to his face:
On the night of the dinner, Trump took his seat at the center of the ballroom, perfectly situated so that all 2,500 lawmakers, movie stars, journalists, and politicos in attendance could see him….But as soon as the plates were cleared and the program began, it became agonizingly clear that Trump was not royalty in this room: He was the court jester.
The president used his speech to pummel Trump with one punchline after another…When host Seth Meyers took the mic, he piled on with his own rat-a-tat of jokes, many of which seemed designed deliberately to inflame Trump’s outer-borough insecurities: “His whole life is models and gold leaf and marble columns, but he still sounds like a know-it-all down at the OTB.”
The longer the night went on, the more conspicuous Trump’s glower became. He didn’t offer a self-deprecating chuckle, or wave warmly at the cameras, or smile with the practiced good humor of the aristocrats and A-listers who know they must never allow themselves to appear threatened by a joke at their expense. Instead, Trump just sat there, stone-faced, stunned, simmering — Carrie at the prom covered in pig’s blood.
More from the Coppins piece, which is a long ‘un lamenting his own ostensibly pivotal role in Trump’s quest for the Presidency:
I asked Everhart recently if he ever had any inkling that Trump might one day capture the GOP presidential nomination: “No. Never. Nope. No way.” In retrospect, he added, that turned out to be one of the candidate’s great advantages. “Half of the story here is the dismissiveness that the political operative class had toward him.”
But when I then asked if he felt any sense of complicity in Trump’s rise, Everhart grew quiet. “Damn, that’s loaded.” He admitted that if he could have seen the future, he would have handled the 2010 meeting differently. But as it turned out, he said, the billionaire didn’t need any help connecting with the people who were flocking to tea party rallies at the time.
“[They] were not ideological conservatives — they were just mad and they felt disrespected,” Everhart said. “It was not unlike the Trump brand-marketing demo: Think of a guy who has a small subcontracting business or something. Maybe he went to college, maybe he didn’t; maybe he was in the military for a while. He’s done pretty well in life but he’s never felt respected. Nobody ever looked at him like he was a winner. That’s exactly who Trump has made millions off of. That’s exactly who Trump is.”
…(Trump) arrived at the Washington Hilton on the night of the (WHCD in 2011), and while the political paparazzi clamored for photos, someone asked him how many jokes he thought the president would make about him in his speech. “I wouldn’t think he would address me,” Trump said, before striding off down the red carpet with Melania on his arm, giving no indication that he knew he was walking into an ambush.
Looking back on that night, Favreau and Lovett told me they were torn about having added weight to the chip on Trump’s shoulder. “I really don’t take any pleasure in Trump being the nominee, sincerely, even if it means they lose,” Lovett said. “If only we hadn’t made that joke, maybe we’d have peace in our time.”
As soon as the dinner ended, Trump and Melania beelined for the exit, with their elbow-throwing security guards clearing a path through the ballroom. By the next day, Trump would be publicly shrugging off the whole affair in interviews; laboring to exert an air of nonchalance; explaining how the onslaught of jokes was just the inevitable result of his terrific poll numbers; insisting that he quite enjoyed all the attention, but that poor Seth, on the other hand, revealed himself to be a “stutterer” who’d fumbled through his whole sad routine. Trump would even manage to add a righteous sheen of populism. “You know, the American people are really suffering and we’re all having fun at a gala,” he would tell Fox News.
And then Trump gave the rest of us a chance to have our say, to express how fed up and enraged we’ve been for so long with DC business as usual. And then he started working on keeping his promises to us, and LO! The economy came roaring back with a stunning quickness; companies started moving back to the States, hiring more workers and handing out bonuses and raises. The Deep State’s coup attempt has wound up doing way more harm to them than to Trump, and is rapidly collapsing into outright farce. The Saudis began cooperating in the fight against Muslim terrorists. And now, a completely unlooked-for breakthrough with North Korea seems to be a-borning. Fast forward to 2016:
Rand Paul’s chief adviser, Doug Stafford, spent an evening watching hockey and tapping out sarcastic tweets to Trump to see if he would catch on — he didn’t — and gleefully emailing me throughout the process. Two separate advisers to Marco Rubio called me to say they thought my article would finally convince party leaders they could ignore Trump now. Paul Ryan regaled me with memories from the 2012 campaign trail about dealing with the Donald, whom he’d come to regard as “an…interesting person.” Trump had already been fuming over the din of laughter coming from the political class. Now, it seemed, the din was growing louder.
So who’s laughing NOW, losers?
If you can choke down all the bilious Trump-hate, it’s actually a pretty interesting article. And the bile is effectively neutralized by the knowledge that Trump defied the odds with a big win—a possibility Coppins haughtily dismisses throughout the piece with sneering aplenty. The conclusion, in which Trump has the last prophetic word, is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
By declining to attend this year’s WHCD shit-show in favor of holding another of his mammoth rallies instead, Trump made another of his signature perfect moves. He rendered the whole wankfest irrelevant—not that it was ever anything but for most Americans anyway—and drew a big, bold line under yet another reason why Normals despise the Uniparty/Fake News monolith. There are plenty of Tweets expressing alarm and dismay listed here, but the best is this one:
If the #WHCD dinner did anything tonight, it made the chasm between journalists and those who don't trust us, even wider. And those of us based in the red states who work hard every day to prove our objectivity will have to deal with it.
— Meg Kinnard (@MegKinnardAP) April 29, 2018
As I always say: ask yourselves why we hate you. But I gotta disagree with McLauglin’s call to do away with the thing. I think they should go right on with it, each and every year, until every last American has no excuse for not seeing the DC inner circle for the slimy, poisonous toads they truly are.