Daily Archives: May 3, 2010

Why the WH Correspondents’ dinner needs to end. And a bomb scare in Times Square

As a political nerd, I used to really look forward to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Bunch of big-shot journalists get together, along with all the major politicians in Washington, and tell some jokes, while making fun of each other’s self-importance.

Harmless fun, right?

Saturday night was the annual yuk-fest this year, and it was the same old story. President Obama got off some really good one-liners (the joke about John McCain and Arizona was pretty hilarious, at the 7:15 mark of the video) and everyone laughed.  Obama had another good line about the emcee of the dinner, Jay Leno: “Though I am glad that the only person whose ratings fell more than mine last year is here tonight. Great to see you Jay. I’m also glad that I’m speaking first. We’ve all seen what happens when somebody takes the time slot after Leno’s.”

Here’s what upsets me, more and more each year, though: This dinner is wildly unprofessional. As a journalist, it’s pretty distasteful that the people who are supposed to hold the politicians’ feet to the fire spend all this time palling around with them. It represents everything many of us hate about the Washington political culture: They’re all in it together, reporters and Congress, journalists and high-ranking officials.

Do sportswriters like myself go to team banquets and parties of the teams we cover? No. Do business writers hang out at the country club with the CEOs they write about? No. So why is it acceptable that the journalists who have the most important beat in the country are all buddy-buddy with those in the highest seats of power?

Especially when things like this are happening; reporters getting subpoenaed by the Obama Justice Department for not revealing sources. I thought this crap was supposed to end after Dubya left office?

Maybe I’m getting old and crusty and cynical already. But not only does a dinner like this send the wrong message, it insults the good name of hard-working reporters who don’t want to be best-friends with the people in power.

**So a car bomb almost went off in Times Square on Saturday. I guess it’s a measure of how much safer I feel, or just how much time has passed since 9/11, that the revelation shocked me. Around 2003 or 2004 or so, I would’ve half-expected such a scare.

A lot of fascinating details in the stories the N.Y. Times has been running, including: How did the police, on a Saturday night in the spring, get Times Square cleared so fast? And I love that it was two sidewalk vendors, who are generally treated as an annoyance by those of us who are natives, are the heroes in this case so far, as they alerted police to the strange-looking Pathfinder on 45th Street.

Another pretty frightening question raised? Why hasn’t New York City been targeted by car bombs before? It’s a lot easier than hijacking a plane or blowing up a subway, and many other major world cities have been bombed this way before.

Thank God it didn’t work. Thank God those street vendors were paying attention.

I just wonder, though, how many times we’re going to get lucky that these attempts at mass destruction “fail.”