I have always been impressed with the self-assured balance displayed by the individuals who are the selected targets of celebrity roasts. How else can someone sit there and listen to a parade of speakers toss insults and make mockery of one’s weaknesses? Takes character. Guts. Poise. Class. Reminds me of a lesson my father taught me many years ago. “They wouldn’t kid you if they didn’t like you,” he said. “If they didn’t, they wouldn’t bother.”
For the second straight year, our president has pointedly stayed away from the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, a festive event at which journalists and others get a chance to poke fun at the politicians whose activities they report on every day. What is more, he wants to wipe the event from America’s calendar. Here’s what he said:
“The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is DEAD as we know it. This was a total disaster and an embarrassment to our great Country and all that it stands for. FAKE NEWS is alive and well and beautifully represented on Saturday night!” He especially took offense at the remarks of comedian Michelle Wolf, some of which were particularly harsh. “The so-called comedian really ‘bombed,’” he tweeted.
Our president holds the dubious honor of being the first to avoid attending the dinner in nearly four decades. Ronald Reagan’s excuse for missing the 1981 dinner was that he was recovering from being shot in an assassination attempt, but Reagan had a sense of humor. Most presidents do. It’s necessary. No one likes to be insulted, of course, but those adults among us who are emotionally stable understand that what’s said in jest at the correspondents dinner is all in a spirit of fun. Most of us get that, but not all.
At correspondents dinners in the past, the president has been given an opportunity at the microphone to give back as good as he gets. Balance. When you don’t show up, you forfeit your rebuttal privileges. If you are this president, you pout, then you lash out with angry tweets instead.
If there is any hope for America in these Trumpian times, this dinner will continue every year and prosper. A narcissistic and thin-skinned president won’t be able to stop it.
Consider the irony. Here is a leader who is comfortable hurling the most offensive of insults at others for their ethnic heritage, disability, physical appearance, political views — really any personal or professional characteristic he can think of, but can’t bring himself to spend an evening among others and listen to their recitations of his own foibles and faults. Good at dishing it out but can’t take it.