Donald Trump has thin skin. So much so to the point that he’s a guy that doesn’t like to make fun of himself. Self-deprecation is a good quality to have, and he doesn’t have it. President Obama did, despite also being thin-skinned (Obama couldn’t take criticism of any kind) and therefore the White House Correspondents Dinner became like a Beatles (or if you don’t like good music but want a more recent example, Justin Bieber) concert. The mainstream press played the part of the teenage girls, screaming and going out of their minds because they get to just “hang out” with the President (and a bunch of celebrities) instead of just cover him.
So Trump said he’s not attending the White House Correspondents Dinner. His announcement caused heads to explode among the mainstream press, largely because they were hoping they’d be able to “speak truth to power” by boycotting the event as if it mattered. Now they can’t get on their high horses, preening about their “standards,” so they’ll do the next best thing: They’ll take shots at Donald Trump for not showing up.
It’s irrelevant as to why President Trump is not attending. The WHCD aka “nerd prom” as Ana Marie Cox dubbed it, is a useless spectacle where members of the press, without any sense of self-awareness, made fools of themselves drooling over President Obama and hoping to get their picture taken with the likes of George Clooney or Charlize Theron.
Now that Donald Trump is President, the press remembers they have a job to do. It’s amusing to sit back and watch some of them question the notion of toasting a President so hostile to the press. It’s amusing because they shouldn’t be toasting the President at all. The members of the fourth estate are supposed to be the conduit between the President and the people, reporting on what he does and challenging him at press events to defend policies and ideas. The media, feeling comfortable toasting President Obama for eight years speaks to their lack of professionalism above all else. Their 180-degree turn in the age of Trump is as transparent as the air we breathe.
For the people taking shots at Trump for not attending, comparing him to President Obama, they can stop right now. President Obama was rarely the butt of any of the jokes told by the emcee at the WCHD and even when he was; they were tame. Most of the ire was directed at President Obama’s Republican opponents so he could sit by, cackling with glee. The one time when the emcee took aim at the President was in 1996 when Don Imus was asked to emcee. The following day, Imus’s speech was declared to be “mean-spirited” because he dared to take direct aim at Bill and Hillary Clinton for most of the 53 minutes he spoke.
Some journalists, even those believed to be left-leaning understand the puerility of the event. Tom Brokaw had this to say about it:
Brokaw stopped attending the WHCD years ago and says he won’t be there this year. “I would watch on C-SPAN, and as I watched on C-SPAN, I would try to put myself, kind of, if you will, in the person of an interested citizen in Kansas City, or in Little Rock, or in Spokane, Wash., saying, ‘That’s the Washington press corps?’ I mean, there was more dignity at my daughter’s junior prom than there is [at] what I’m seeing on C-SPAN there,” he said.
Some people will argue the WHCD is important because it’s part of a process that provides scholarships to aspiring journalists. The White House Correspondents’ Association can still do it. They can go the traditional fundraising route and spare aspiring journalists from witnessing the butt-kissing spectacle of the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Trump’s absence might lead to the elimination of the event altogether, and that would be cause for celebration. Let’s hope it happens.