President Biden made the first presidential appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner in six years. The annual dinner was cancelled in recent years due to the Covid Pandemic and President Trump declined invitations throughout his tenure in the Oval Office.
Trump had two good reasons to stay away. He was at war with news media – or they were with him – and Trump cannot tell a joke. If you had not noticed, the man has no sense of humor. He seems to have only one emotion – anger.
Biden could have stayed away – and maybe he should have. He does not have Trump’s perma-pissed personality, but he is pugnacious in his own way. Like Trump, Biden cannot deliver wit or comedy – and he proved it at the Dinner which has a tradition of roast-level or self-effacing comedy.
Biden has a few jokes in his prepared script, but he just cannot deliver humor. It takes panache and timing. Biden offered up feeble jokes badly delivered. Even White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki lowered expectations by saying the prepared speech was “not funny at all” – and then quickly said that she was “just kidding.”
The result of Biden’s ghost-writing group effort was jokes like: “Just imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year. Now that would really have been a real coup.” zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (Personally, I like to think that Biden let slip that he knows that thing on Capitol Hill was NOT are a real coup.)
When one of Biden’s funniest lines was saying he enjoyed being among people less popular than himself, you know knee-slapping belly-laughs are not on the agenda.
The humor part of Biden’s remarks was so bad that even the crowd of fawning journalists, lobbyists, Democrat operatives and Tinseltown celebrities responded with tepid laughter and an occasional groan.
Of course, stand-up comedy is a skill. For some, wit comes naturally. Some humorists learn the trade. Others never get it. Biden is in that latter category.
Biden had a second problem. It was his array of problems. It is not easy – not even possible – to make jokes about the ugly fact that his administration cannot bring down the curtain on the Ukrainian war. Inflation is soaring. There is a critical shortage of workers, essential parts, and some consumer goods. There is a figurative invasion at the southern border. Crime is running rampant across the nation. The animus of the people against each other is palpable. Not to mention that First Son, Hunter, is under criminal investigation. (Oh, I forgot. Only those on the left are not to mention Hunter. And they did not at the Dinner.)
Of Course, most pre-Dinner reports set a very low bar for Biden’s anticipated remarks to the press corps – and he did not disappoint. In the post-Dinner reports, Biden was generally damned with faint praise by his most ardent admirers.
Following his wisely “brief” attempt at humor, Biden went into a long maudlin praise of the Fourth Estate – mostly describing what they should be, but not what they are.
One might say that the entire evening was saved by real comedian Trevor Noah. He engaged the spirit of the roast with zingers flying in every direction. Most of Noah’s pointed jokes were directed at the media.
Surprisingly (at least I was surprised) he did not take philosophic sides. In fact, his most brutal arrows were fired at CNN. At three points in his routine, he hit on CNN’s loss of ratings and the embarrassing failure of the network’s streaming platform, CNN+. I have to believe that the CNN folks were smiling through gritted teeth.
Noah’s belt-level punch at Biden was when he said the Russians were upset when Biden called for Putin to be removed from office – until they realized Biden cannot get things done.
In terms of the event itself, it is probably time to rename it. In the past, I attended the White House Correspondents Dinner when it was a dinner of, for and by … the White House correspondents. No longer. Most of the attendees were not members of the White House Press Corps – or even members of the press.
Rather, the Dinner has evolved into a show-off event for America’s bicoastal glitterati. It was a red-carpet event. It was a Kim Kardashian reality-tv event – and she and her reality video crew were on the scene to showcase her clothes … her encounters … her dull banter … and her being Kim Kardashian.
It was ironic that the much-mocked CNN set aside their normal evening news line-up to give full Academy Award-style coverage to the event. Maybe they should have checked out the size of the more recent Academy Award audiences. The new owner of CNN, David Zaslav, has yet to figure out what the viewing public wants in terms of news.
Humor, awards, speeches and who’s who attendees aside, the 500-pound gorilla in the room was Covid-19. The event begged the question: Was this another example of elitist privilege – do as I say, not as I do?
This was more than 2500 people PACKED in an indoor space and not a mask in sight. The only social distancing was the space between Biden and others at the head table and even the First Lady was seated six feet away from her hubby. But for everyone else, it was shoulder-to-shoulder.
This event is exactly what the CDC says should not take place. It is the type of indoor event the doctors recommend not attending. In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci declined his invitation for that very reason.
The event was so contrary to Biden’s own admonitions that every guest was required to be vaccinated, fully boosted and tested the day before they were allowed into the room. There were reports, however that the wait staff was not required to meet the same restrictions since they would be masked. Uh huh. I suspect that there were some in that room that circumvented the requirements. Just my opinion.
The only thing that could be said to be “super” about the White House Correspondents Dinner is the potential to be a super-spreader event. But I am better that there will not be any follow-up stories about attendees with Covid no matter how many come down with the virus.
So, there ‘tis.