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Inside the Beltway: Dinner bashing

- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's been all the rage this week to bash the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Multiple accounts now claim that the giddy juxtaposition of journalists, Hollywood celebrities and notorious operatives has become commercialized, off-message and unbecoming. Yeah, well. Close to 3,000 "correspondents" will be vying for attention Saturday night as the network cameras roll and the Makers Mark bourbon stylishly flows at myriad cocktail events. And yes, there were only 11 attendees when the event was first staged 99 years ago.

But there is still some redeeming social value. For all its snippy pomp, the dinner is a viable fundraiser for journalism scholarships. There is only one dinner per year, and it does not usually yield catfights on Connecticut Avenue, anchormen gone awry or drunken columnists wearing lampshades. In addition, the dinner is good for the local economy, what with all the pre-parties, pre-pre-parties and after-parties.

Though some may pine for a return to the modest "Nerd Prom" of yore, that's just not possible, unless the White House Correspondents' Association declares that in the future, only genuine White House correspondents may attend. But that's not likely. The event still has a good-humored dynamic going for it, and every president who addresses the jammed ballroom acknowledges that just for the night, ferocious differences are forgotten, and all's well.

"I'm not going to stand up here and deliver one of those worn-out, sentimental homilies about the press and the presidency. Neither of us would believe it," Ronald Reagan told the crowd during his last appearance at the dinner in 1986. "What I hope my epitaph will be with the White House correspondents, what every president's epitaph should be with the press is this: He gave as good as he got. And that I think will make for a healthy press and a healthy presidency."

WALK DON'T RUN

Does Donald Trump have something in common with Barbara Bush? Well, maybe just a little, but for different reasons.

"We've had enough Bushes," the former first lady told NBC on Thursday, in an effort to discourage son Jeb Bush from running for the White House in 2012. And the billionaire?

"We need another Bush in office about as much as we need Obama to have a third term. No more Bushes!" Mr. Trump tweeted in the immediate aftermath.

THE REINVENTED CLINTON

Former President Bill Clinton — the reinvented vegan hipster globalist — returns to the nation's capital with much ado in about 48 hours. He'll host something called "A Night Out with the Millennium Network" at a boutique hotel about two blocks from his old digs at the White House, accompanied by daughter Chelsea Clinton and "Book of Mormon" star Josh Gad. It is an evening for the young and restless; guests — who pay anywhere from $150 to $10,000 to attend — are advised to wear "smart, casual attire" and bring a photo ID. About 1,000 usually show up organizers say, and yes, there's an open bar. And a cause.

"The goal of each event is to bring together a diverse group of young leaders committed to making a difference in the world through their own philanthropy and through the work of the Clinton Foundation," advance materials note.

Mr. Clinton, meanwhile, has discovered social media after recently sending his first tweet during a live broadcast on the Comedy Channel. The Clinton Foundation already is promoting his new Twitter presence, exclaiming, "You can now connect directly with President Clinton on Twitter." His handle, is not, say, #BubbaTweets, but just plain #BillClinton. He'll likely embrace Twitter with gusto: the 42nd president has tweeted a total of five times. He already has close to 400,000 followers.

THE PERRY EFFECT

Like Gov. Rick Perry, a dozen Republican Texas lawmakers have a message for gun makers: Y'all come on down. Rep. Blake Farenthold and 11 other members of the legislature have contacted a trio of Connecticut firearms manufacturers urging them to relocate to friendlier territory.

One — PTR Precision Technologies — already intends to move its 40 jobs out of the state due to "unintended consequences" of Connecticut's newly passed gun control legislation.

"We want gun manufacturers across the country to know that Texas is both a business-friendly environment and committed to protecting our Second Amendment rights," Mr. Farenthold says. "That's why we wrote this letter inviting them to relocate their facilities to the Lone Star State, where we're always open for business."

"We understand what it takes to keep jobs in our state. We respect the Constitution of the United States of America. Come on down to Texas where we love our guns and our jobs. We won't stifle your business with burdensome regulations and we will protect your Second Amendment rights," agrees Rep. Randy Weber.

BUMPER PATROL

"Invest in America. Buy a congressman."

— Bumper sticker spotted in Enid, Okla.

POLL DU JOUR

67 percent of U.S. voters say U.S. government personnel who survived the Benghazi attack should be subpoenaed to appear before Congress; 81 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats agree.

61 percent of voters overall say President Obama should have been directly involved in the response to the Benghazi attack; 82 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats agree.

46 percent overall think the White House is covering up details of the terrorist attack on Benghazi; 72 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats agree.

39 percent overall think former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was aware of a cable request for reinforcements at Benghazi; 52 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Fox News poll of 1,009 registered U.S. voters conducted April 20 to 22.

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