- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2015

One giant dinner and 24 private parties later - and the White House Correspondents Dinner season is almost over. Almost. Sunday still percolates with a few stray parties - like CNN’s official “hangover party,” staged in a pilates studio a few blocks north of the White House. The main event has come and gone, though - 2,700 “correspondents” dined well, along with the 240 genuine journalists who actually have White House credentials.

All of the traditional fixtures were on hand: Traffic, alert law enforcement, a few protestors and dozens of shining black SUVS, heavy on the Cadillac Escalades. There was a red carpet, beautiful women posed, gawkers screamed, took phone videos and snapped selfies. There was presidential pomp, and presidential one-liners. President Obama was deft during his time on the dais - at ease taking potshots at all sides and himself for 22 minutes. The big audience roared and clapped for their Comedian-in-Chief.

Jeb Bush identified himself as Hispanic back in 2001. But, I understand, I identified myself as American back in 1961,” Mr. Obama said.

“Soon the first presidential contest will take place. And I for one can’t wait to see who the Koch brothers pick. It’s exciting,” he later added.

“And Donald Trump is here. Still,” he noted.

“After the midterm elections, my advisers asked me, ‘Mr. President, do you have a bucket list? And I said, well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list. Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. New regulations? Bucket.”

But there was designated entertainer, of course. After promoting Hillary Clinton, making fun of Fox News and promoting Hillary Clinton again, Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong closed her stand-up routine by saying, “Thank you to the White House Correspondents Association. Whatever that is.”

Yes, well. It is what it is. What was once a banquet for 50 journalists has evolved into a gargantuan gala for celebrities, politicians, lobbyists, social media mavens, models, journalists, operatives and gadflies. And there are still huge moments where even an elite audience realizes that the gathering could only happen in the nation’s capital, and that power ultimately trumps celebrity.

The event could be getting upstaged, however.

“The week still remains Washington’s signature event, but the dinner itself isn’t necessarily the top spot for partygoers that weekend, as best evidenced by the fact that BuzzFeed and Facebook threw a party during the actual dinner itself last year,” Patrick Gavin tells Inside the Beltway. A former Politico journalist, he wrote and directed “Nerd Prom: The Movie,” an edgy new documentary that questions the scope and direction of the dinner itself.

“More and more people are opting to watch it on C-SPAN at home and instead focus their time and energies on more intimate parties instead of a big ballroom gala,” Mr. Gavin says.

And for the record, Mr. Obama was back at the White House by 11:20 p.m. on Saturday night.

GOP HOPEFULS SKIP THE WHCD

Nine Republican presidential hopefuls had a different calling on Saturday. They were in Waukee, Iowa, at the Point of Grace Church — talking up the big topics at the 15th annual Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “kickoff” voter outreach.

On hand: Sens. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz; Govs. Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal; and Carly Fiorina, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson were represented either via video messages, or through a personal representative. Over 1,000 people were at the free event.

“We promise an in-depth conversation with the candidates on a broad range of issues. We believe this will be a first step for caucusgoers to garner information that will allow them to formulate their opinions on who they will support at the 2016 precinct caucuses,” advises Steve Scheffler, president of the coalition.

And, of course, this is Iowa — a state of opportunity. While he’s there, Mr. Rubio also attended an ice cream social in the home of a state senator while Mr. Paul spoke at an American Legion Hall and a local library.

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

“When did you personally begin to use the private email server?’

“Who ultimately determined which emails were private and which were official?”

“How was the IT equipment you used managed, maintained and monitored?”

— Three of the 136 questions for Hillary Clinton from Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, regarding her use of a private email system as secretary of state. The questions were sent Thursday to Mrs. Clinton’s attorney David E. Kendall; the questions are public at the committee website: Benghazi.House.gov.

FOR THE POSSIBLE LEXICON

“Bush Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Jeb Bush Rich”

— Another book is on the way from prolific and relentless author Peter Schweizer, who rocked the Democratic world this week with previews of his investigative book on the finances of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, titled “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”

The author is now working on a book about Jeb Bush and money, due out at summer’s end.

“What we’re doing is a drill-down investigation of Jeb’s finances similar to what we did with the Clintons in terms of looking at financial dealings, cronyism, who he’s been involved with. We’ve found some interesting things,” Mr. Schweizer told Bloomberg Politics.

FOXIFIED

Programming of note on Fox News Channel: “The Tangled Clinton Web,” which ponders the political careers of the aforementioned Bill Clinton and spouse Hillary at a pivotal time. The one-hour special will investigate their post-White House finances along with the “millions” of dollars in speaking fees and donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Anchored by Bret Baier, the intent, the network says, is “to take you behind the spotlight of the political power couple and follow the money to see where it came from, where it went and how it may have changed American policy. Also featured: an interview with the aforementioned Peter Schweizer, author of “Clinton Cash.” Airtime is 10 p.m. EDT.

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

For sale: WilliamKoch’s Eli Mountain Lodge complex; a total of 13 buildings on 82 acres, Aspen, Colorado. A 15,000-square-foot main lodge, three historic cabins and several family homes include 28 bedrooms and 25 baths, multiple spas, a wine room, a full-size gym, an indoor basketball court and an entertainment hall. Natural wood interior, ceiling beams, wall timbers and flooring; stone fire places, elk antler chandeliers, state-of-the-art automated security, custom windows, six stocked, aerated trout ponds, spectacular views, “extreme privacy.” All furniture conveys. Priced at $100 million; see the property here: ElkMountainLodgeAspen.com.

POLL DU JOUR

81 percent of registered U.S. voters say the Islamic State poses a “real national security threat” to the U.S.; 92 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats agree.

17 percent say the Islamic State does not pose a threat to the U.S.; 8 percent of Republicans, 18 percent of independents and 24 percent of Democrats agree.

34 percent of voters overall say the fight against the extremist group is going “somewhat badly”; 32 percent of Republicans, 31 percent of independents and 36 percent of Democrats agree.

30 percent overall say the fight is going “somewhat well”; 19 percent of Republicans, 26 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats agree.

29 percent overall say the fight is going “very badly”; 45 percent of Republicans, 35 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Fox News poll of 1,012 registered U.S. voters conducted April 19-21.

Snarls of outrage, prattle to [email protected]

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