By Jennifer Granholm, POLITICO
This White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is purposely confounding.
It is ridiculously bipartisan. People engaged in daily hand-to-hand combat over politics or a juicy news story air kiss, break bread together and pretend to be listening to their table mates while actually trying to make eye contact across the room with George Clooney or Sofia Vergara.
Antagonists who daily use procedural maneuvers as sharp epees, come to this dinner armed with only olive branches. Legislators who furiously battle by day, laugh by night. This one night, anyway.
Can we work out a deal on the “Buffett rule” tonight over a glass of port?
But there’s more than partisan line-blurring here. Friday is the 50th anniversary of the admission of women to the dinner — thanks to President John F. Kennedy’s refusal to attend unless women were admitted. Those old lines were erased, never to be redrawn.
Outside, the combatants in the war on women plot their next battle. But in here, their generals observe a cease-fire, just for this night.
Lines are blurred tonight between old media and new. Between citizen journalists and professionals. Between hack politicians (ahem) and expertly trained news hosts. All are here. All need a break from the teleprompter. All are drinking hard liquor.
The line is blurred between journalist, columnist and newsmaker tonight. Sean Hannity may be seen laughing with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Or Ed Schultz getting drinks for Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.). Or Paul Krugman yukking it up with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. OK, maybe not that.
This party also conspicuously blurs the line between entertainment and reality. Politicians and journalists are cast as movie stars, dressing up and awkwardly walking the red carpet. Members of the news media who actually had movie cameos are here. Actors who play politicians are here. Actors who play journalists are here. Network chiefs who blend “info” with “tainment” tonight are here, blending vodka with gin.
This is a remarkable tradition, even if the politicians are feigning bipartisan harmony with more acting skill than the Hollywood dinner guests.
The WHCA dinner continues come hell or high water. Washington’s in gridlock. The parties slam each other on the Hill. The White House and speaker aren’t talking. The Supremes might strike down the president’s premier piece of legislation. The White House is tracking down and charging whistleblowers. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is holding yet another hearing on something or other. Yet this party goes on.
Do we enjoy tonight because it is a vestige of a paradise lost — a time when the political parties socialized together? Or do we enjoy it because we see a glimpse, a chimera of an imagined future?
Actually, I’m not sure that all of this lovey-dovey stuff is healthy. On this night of merrymaking and foie gras, we ought not forget our day jobs. The lines tonight may be blurred, but a fierce, enduring commitment to speaking truth to power cannot be.
In our diverse roles, politicians and media, we serve millions who will never be able to snag tickets to this fancy dinner — people who might view this chummy spectacle with alarm. They would want us to remember them, amid the tinkling glasses and laughter.
We serve the ones who sleep tonight under bridges as well as those who sleep under canopies. We are servants to the chatterers, yes, but more so to the voiceless. To the power brokers, yes, but more so to the powerless.
Our bosses in name may be the media mogul, but our bosses in truth are the farmer and factory worker, the seamstress and the janitor. Our devotion must be to those whom we have never met, those who count on us, through transparency and candor, to defend the country from corruption and lies, excess and privilege.
Despite the patina of closeness this night, despite the ease with which many glide across the lines from newsmaker to media and back again, we do not forget that the journalist and the politician serve the same master: the people.
Enough of the preaching.
I know one thing for certain: If you’re reading the back of your program, clearly, you haven’t had enough to drink. So get to it — and hug a tea party member on your way to the bar.