- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

This year’s Washington Press Club Foundation Dinner was supposed to be a comedic duel between Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Rep. John A. Boehner.

Instead, Tuesday night belonged to the ladies: the new speaker of the House and the reporter who shattered the White House’s glass ceiling.

The assembled press and guests, 850 strong, oohed over Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her brief remarks, then ahhed when veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas picked up a lifetime achievement honor.

To be fair, neither Mr. Kennedy or Mr. Boehner did much to win the crowd back.

The event draws out the funniest members of Congress, and the material often veers from edgy to downright hilarious. But while Mr. Boehner’s shtick proved too inside-the-Beltway for even a District crowd, Mr. Kennedy served warmed-over gags from Milton Berle’s day.

The dinner, held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Northwest, let Mr. Boehner dress down a number of scribes personally, doing a less catty version of Mr. Blackwell’s “worst dressed” list.

The perennially tan House minority leader also teased the new speaker, grumbling about her snuffing out smoking in the halls of Congress. Now, he’s reduced to smoking outside in the brutal winter air.

“I want a seat on your global warming committee,” he cracked.

Mr. Kennedy then took the podium, rumbling through material that seemed new to him, if not us.

He took a few shots at himself, particularly how long he has served in Congress (44 years, to be exact).

When the Massachusetts senator first took office, “Hillary Clinton was a Republican, Ronald Reagan was a Democrat, Joe Lieberman hadn’t even thought about having it both ways and J. Edgar Hoover had picked out his first Cross Your Heart bra,” Mr. Kennedy joked.

Leave it to the night’s emcee, CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, to land the night’s biggest laugh.

“They’re two of the cleanest, brightest, most articulate men in Congress,” Mr. Schieffer said of the dueling comics, referring to Sen. Joseph Biden’s now infamous remarks about his colleague, Sen. Barack Obama. “Poor ol’ Joe … Sen. Obama throws his halo in the ring and he trips over it.”

Among those soaking in the good humor were new District Mayor Adrian Fenty, White House spokesman Tony Snow and longtime news broadcaster Sam Donaldson.

At The Washington Times table, presidential hopeful Rep. Thomas Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado, broke bread with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican.

The night wasn’t all about gentle ribbing. The dinner announced a new internship program dedicated to the late New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum and handed out reportorial awards to David Lightman of the Hartford Courant and John E. Mulligan of the Providence Journal.

The pre-dinner reception took on a glossier feel than previous affairs, as if the minds behind the affair were looking to snag some of the White House Correspondents Dinner’s thunder.

It’ll take a lot more celebrities to do that, but for now the Foundation dinner settled for lovely actress Daryl Hannah and reigning Miss America Lauren Nelson.

Not a bad start, come to think of it.

Those lucky enough to secure tickets to Congressional Quarterly’s after party capped the night dancing to music from the cast of “Movin’ Out!”

It took a number of songs, and more likely a number of belts as well, to finally get the hard-boiled journalistic crowd out to boogie on the dance floor.

Christian Toto

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