- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 27, 2013

It was a cast of thousands on a very crowded set: For the 99th time, the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has come and gone on a tide of tuxedos, talking points and a certain license to be daring, minus the political risk.

“How do you like my new entrance music?” President Obama asked the crowd Saturday night, after arriving on the dais to the strains of rap music.

“Rush Limbaugh warned you about this — second term, baby. We’re changing things around here,” he said, later noting he had felt the weight of office.

“I’m not the strapping young Muslim Socialist I used to be,” he observed.

Levity was therapy. Having fought their way to the ballroom through hallways and down escalators, the 2,700 guests were ready for a goof, not a gaffe.

Indeed, the evening’s entertainer Conan O’Brien compared the news media to a high school cafeteria, declaring that “Fox is the jocks, MSNBC the nerds, bloggers the Goths — NPR is the table for kids with peanut allergies, Al-Jazeera is the weird foreign exchange student.”

SEE ALSO: Sarah Palin slams White House dinner as ‘nerdprom’

He marveled over the fact that Wayne La Pierre is “merely” the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

“How freaking crazy do you have to be the president of the NRA?” Mr. O’Brien demanded.

That particular title belongs to one David Keene, a guest of The Washington Times for the evening.

He was most agreeable about the festivities.

“I like this event. Been to a quite a few. But I am particularly looking forward to Sunday, when I am going fishing in Virginia,” Mr. Keene said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus — also a Times guest and the butt of several jokes — remained in good humor as well.

“I’m looking everywhere for Donald Driver to come brighten my day, but I can’t find him anywhere,” Mr. Priebus quipped, referring to the former Green Bay Packers’ wide receiver who graced “Dancing With the Stars” for a season.

“Hollywood may think the Oscars are great. But this event is about real power, real celebrity and real politics, and there’s nothing else like it,” noted radio host Armstrong Williams, also a guest of The Washington Times.

A pair of star athletes agreed.

“I love this. It’s incredible,” said Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who attended the dinner with The Times, along with relief pitcher Tyler Clippard.

“I’m used to being alone in the middle of a stadium. So this is a pretty amazing experience,” Mr. Clippard agreed.

Was the night similar to the 98 other dinners that preceded it?

Well, yes and no. There were many, many cocktails but no messy drunks. The crowd was beautifully dressed. The fare set was top-drawer — delicate fish and savory beef, offset by baby vegetables and fancy potatoes.

There was some traditional do-gooding.

Aspiring young journalists who shared the $100,000 in scholarship funds were lauded onstage by Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, plus Fox News correspondent Ed Henry, the current president of the White House Correspondents Association and master of ceremonies.

He urged the young folks to aim high and he told his press colleagues to mind their credibility and honor their audiences.

By 11 p.m., it was all over, and another great migration commenced as the thousands sought their cars and limos, some seeking the fancy after-parties, others mindful of Sunday. And Monday.

“This is an opportunity, really. It’s an opportunity for Congress, the administration, the press and the famous to come together, essentially for a good cause,” summed up Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican. “There’s money for scholarships as a result, and that is a positive thing.”

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