Friday, April 29, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I don’t fault any one host for throwing a party, or any journalist for attending... But the cumulative effect is icky. With the proliferation of A-list parties and the infusion of corporate and lobbyist cash, Washington journalists give Americans the impression we have shed our professional detachment and are aspiring to be like the celebrities and power players we cover."

-- The Washington Post's Dana Milbank on the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner being held this weekend

Donald Trump is just one of the celebrities who've been invited and who will be in attendance.

And that's just one of the problems with this now grotesque tradition.

It used to be known self-deprecatingly as "the nerd prom"; these days it's anything but.


kanye said...

This made me remember something that I read many, many years ago.

Apparently it doesn't exist on the web, at least not in cut-and-paste form, so I pulled the book off a shelf and typed it out (which, of course, means that it's copyrighted...something to keep in mind).

It speaks well to what you're talking about here, and it's by one of the all time greats.

June 8, 1994

Second Thought on That Invite: Oh, Forget It

The morning stress began with a call from a woman expressing outrage at what she called “the most arrogant piece of journalistic tripe I have ever read.”

“I cannot believe you could write anything this stupid, she said.

Well, if it is on page 3 with my lopped-head picture, the stupidity must be mine.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” she said. “The president of the United States invites you to dinner, and you treat it as a joke.”

“Don’t you realize what an honor that invitation is? The average American would be thrilled just to shake a president’s hand. You are typical of today’s media arrogance. Shame on you.”

It was an impressive tirade, and I thanked her and said I would reread what I had written and reconsider my arrogant position.

Which I have done. And now I realize that she has a point. The fault was mine for not having explained more clearly why I turned down a dinner invitation at the White House.

Stated as simply as possible: Politicians are enormously charming.

I’ve been talking to, reporting on, and writing about politicians for almost 40 years.

And I have to admit, I have never met a politician I didn’t like.

That might sound odd, coming from someone who has made a cottage industry out of bashing politicians.

But it’s true. From Chicago alderman--the lowest of the political food chain--on up to presidents and ex-presidents, I’ve pummeled them: Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, independents, the brilliant, and the hairbrained.

And I have yet to meet a politician who didn’t have some redeeming qualities.

I like politicians because they put it on the line. In a society of salesman and pitchmen, they are the ultimate hustlers. To succeed, they need approval of 50.01 percent of the customers. That is one tough sales rate.


kanye said...


They do it with charm. In my lifetime, FDR had it in excess. Truman in a spunky way. Ike, the hero, by being bigger than life. Kennedy was the ultimate youth-vigor symbol. Nixon because he was an Everyman, the mope who somehow makes it. Carter because he was so decent. Reagan, who had it all. And Clinton…Clinton?

I don’t doubt that Clinton has a brilliant mind and that his wife exceeds him. You don’t get to be president of the United States unless you smarter than about 99 percent of the people who voted for or against you.

And you don’t get to be president, governor, mayor, senator, congressman, or even a schnook alderman in Chicago unless you can ooze charm and shake a hand as though you love the other end of that appendage.

So that’s the main reason I declined the invitation to done at the White House.

There is no doubt that if I spent the evening with Bill and Hillary, they would charm me out of my shoes. And I would be inhibited every time I decided to write something mean about them. And if I can’t be mean, what the heck good am I?

Journalists are human. At least some of us older ones. So if I sit down for dinner with a president, I feel like an “in-person.” I am no longer some guy who grew up along Milwaukee Avenue. I am a VIP, big heat, or why else would a prez invite me to chow down at the White House?

Which is ridiculous. If I was my friend Big John, an expert on the printing industry and many other things, or my friend Danny, who went from laying bricks to running his own construction company, I wouldn’t be invited to the White House.

I was invited because by dumb luck, an editor’s folly, and my willingness to work cheap, I ended up writing a newspaper column.

And that is why President Clinton or one of his flunkies decided to invite me to dine in that great transient home in our capital. It ain’t me, it’s my job.

- Mike Royko

Ref said...

Milbank is a classic insider DC Dickhead. He probably wrote this because he didn't get an invitation he wanted.