Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


The executive branch and the press haven't been this close since …

Tammy Haddad, Kathleen Matthews and Chris Matthews

The 63rd annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner (WHCAD) is undoubtedly Washington's Oscars, and thus, "the weekend" to see-and-be-seen. The Saturday night dinner is just the centerpiece of an extended fourday love-in between the media and politicians. This year's A-list floated from the FOX 10th Anniversary party at Cafe Milano on Thursday to the Washington Life/Creative Coalition Friday luncheon at Teatro Goldoni; to Saturday's pre-dinner brunch hosted by Tammy Haddad; receptions at the Hilton; the Bloomberg after-party (the biggest playpen and the toughest ticket in town); and finally wrapping with a well-deserved Bloody Mary on the rooftop of the Hay Adams at Cristina and John McLaughlin's Sunday brunch overlooking The White House.

The Double Mint twins showed up at The Hilton in the form of G. Dubya Bush and G. Dubya Bush where the flavor of the night was Comedian-in-Chief President George W. Bush, "Ladies and gentleman, I'm feeling chipper tonight. I survived The White House shake-up." He survived this night as well, whereas last year the First Lady took home the Blue Ribbon. "She's hot, muy caliente," said Bush's body double Steve Bridges, whose act was complete with all the annoying snickers, sneers and body shakes of a Bevis and Butt-Head sideshow. The Presidential duo was a hard act to follow for comedian Stephen Colbert, who sardonically poked fun at the White House press corps almost as much as President Bush himself. Assuming his dead pan personality he declared, "I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the President's side, and the Vice President's side. But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe?... Over the last five years you people were so good over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew. But, let's review the rules. Here's how it works: the President makes decisions. He's ‘the Decider.' The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ‘em through a spell check and go home." (No wonder Colbert received such an icy reception at the dinner.) The President had his moments as well asking: "How come I can't have dinner with the 36 percent of the people who like me?" But Bridge's G. Dubya got shot the only trial lawyer in the country that's for me." "Some of my critics call me arrogant. I won't even honor that with a response. Screw em. No, don't screw em. Let's hit them with some rhetorical eloquence: My friends, our purple mountains with ramparts red flare, white with foam and justice for all and fruity plains gallantly streaming from sea to shiny sea with a shiny city, on a shiny hill, above a shiny prarie and maybe some shiny shrubs, I see a shiny America." And that's not even the Spanish version.

George Clooney
Georgette Mosbacher and Patricia Duff

Alex Trebek and Wolf Blitzer
Hill Harper

Jason Reitman, Chris Buckley and Julie Hunt
Cristina McLaughlin, Debbie Dingell, and Joey “Pants” Pantoliano

Amy Argetsinger and Hill Harper
Jamie Whitehead and Nora Maccoby


The mutual allure of Washington and Hollywood reminds me of the enormous popularity of all those Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies from the 1930s. Paired with Rogers, the dancing Astaire appeared sexier. Paired with Fred, partner Ginger seemed smarter. So to get the picture at the annual WHCAD just think of Washington as Fred Astaire, Hollywood as Ginger Rogers. This explains the "prom night" atmosphere of the annual event. It shows Washington snapping up the advice of Horace Greeley to "Go West!" And it has Hollywood ignoring Rudyard Kipling's warning that "ne're the twain shall meet." What gives special dazzle to the night, of course, are the oddly wondrous pairings, like this year's coupling of Newsweek's hawkish Lally Weymouth with Syriana's dovish George Clooney. I felt sorry for the sweating and puffing waiters trying to get through the army of table-hoppers massed at that table. You could say, quite safely, that the WHCAD is just journalistic rivalry by other means. The greatest joy on Washington's "prom night" comes not just in what star you got but who you scooped. George Clooney wasn't sitting with Time. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. The guy sitting with Newsweek this year wasn't sitting with Time. Nor was Time alone in its envy. From every table in the Hilton ballroom except Newsweek's you could hear the moan of that old Astaire- Rogers lyric, "Won't you change partners and dance with me?"

It was a stealthy move for host Chris Wallace to invite Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to FOX's 10th Anniversary party at Cafe Milano's pre-pre-party where she shared the spotlight with new press secretary Tony Snow, FOX's Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, Brit Hume and such administration types as Karen Hughes, Josh Bolton, and Carl Rove. Vernon Jordan and former DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe played backup. Owner Rupert Murdock, who recently held an eyebrowraising Clinton fund-raiser, rationalized that decision, saying: "She's been an effective and good senator. It's no big deal. It's got nothing to do with anything other than her Senate re-election."...Sure.

Nellie Boone and Jaci Reid
Katie Rost

Robin Bronk and Matt Cooper
Yael OEstreich, Margaret Carlson And Saundra Seaman


It was a Pantoliano moment when the Soprano's star showed up early at the WL pre-WHCAD lunch with the Creative Coalition for fifty at Teatro Goldoni, so the hotshot hammed it up with the staff in Jersey Italian. CSI's Hill Harper, who was recently named one of the sexiest men in Hollywood, surprised guests with a complimentary copy of his book: "Letters to a Young Brother." Dining on lobster risotto prepared by Chef Fabrizio Aielli were Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, The Post's Amy Argetsinger, Debbie Dingell, The Hill's Jackie Kucinich and Microsoft's Matt Gilman, Mark McFadden, Marquis Jet's Suzanne Showers and Lionsgate's Marc Dubic, amongst others.

Rolling at the CNN pre-party with the unlikely triumvirate of rapper Ludacris, Jeopardy!'s Alex Trebek and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was quite interesting given the mob vying for a photo-op with them. But spying Karl Rove dining just a few tables away from Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson definitely added to the intrigue of the dinner. Here were nearly 3,000 newsmakers and journalists rubbing elbows at a time of unprecedented tension between politicians and the press. As a disciple of the late muckraker Jack Anderson, I'm a hard-liner when it comes to standing up for the First Amendment, but what's wrong with socializing with the people we cover for one big night? There's actually something reassuring about our ability to break bread, despite the blizzard of subpoenas and stakeouts, depositions and suppositions. I sat at the same table with Gen. Michael Hayden. This guy doesn't just collect secrets – he knows how to keep them: We sat together for nearly three hours and he gave not one solitary hint that within days there would be a coup at the CIA resulting in him replacing Porter Goss! I squirmed in my seat when guest comedian Stephen Colbert cracked, "If anyone needs anything for your tables, just speak clearly into your numbers and someone from the NSA will be there shortly." But I noticed Gen. Hayden chuckling – and I was pleasantly surprised to find him talking about sports teams from his hometown of Pittsburgh instead of wonkery battles in Aspen. I resisted the temptation to join the stampede to George Clooney's table (didn't want to confirm the impression that the journalists put style over substance) so, imagine my surprise when Gen. Hayden suddenly jumped up from his chair and raced across the room. Had the intelligence officer spotted a terrorist? Nope. Gen. Hayden, a quarterback in grade school, had been calculating just the right moment to approach Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger for a handshake – and he was pouncing like a linebacker. Maybe celeb-chasing isn't so bad. You have to like a four-star general wearing his blue-collar roots on the sleeves of his Air Force dress blues.

John mccaslin, janet donovan and marc dubic
Ed Henry

Tony snow and Bush impersonator Steve Bridges
Peter Grauer


Tammy Haddad's pre-gala annual brunch on Saturday afternoon left no doubt it would induce a Monday morning call to the lawn docs. Co-hosted by Biz Bash's David Adler, Barbara Comsock, Russ Hodges and Hilary Rosen, the mediaheavy guest list included colleagues Rita Cosby, Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews and Rick Kaplan. The Washington Times' Editorial Page Editor Tony Blankley wished Tony Snow well and hoped "the staff allows him to do it right." "Tony's got enough pre-standing presence not to be pushed around," he added. As for rumors that Newt Gingrich (Blankley's former boss) is running for president: "I don't speak for him anymore, but he looks pretty energetic out there." Former Senator Fred Thompson was seen negotiating a deal with ABC Radio. Best deal of the day though was Tammy Haddad's: She got to keep the tent up for her daughter's birthday party the next day.

Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson
Howard Fineman, David jackson and Morgan Fairchild

Bonnie and Sen. Frank Lautenberg With Suzanne Showers
CHRIS “Ludacris” Bridges and Ed Henry


Together with his father, he had just returned to the U.S. from the remote African refugee camps in Chad. George Clooney had been motivated to take up the gut-wrenching issue of Darfur. "The single most important thing I want to achieve is to try and help make sure that it gets on the air, that people see it, that people are talking about genocide, which they're not," he told me when we sat down to discuss his trip at the National Press Club. "But if I show up at places, sometimes cameras follow." That, of course, is an understatement. The cameras love George Clooney. And because he took up the Darfur issue, many people who wouldn't normally pay attention, did. He was on my show on CNN and many others – sharing his eyewitness account. He was also joined by Samantha Power, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who has also taken on the Darfur issue. She won that prize for her powerful book, "Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide." Power and Clooney have both spent time in Darfur refugee camps. "There have been 80,000 people displaced just in the last two months alone," she says. The Sudanese government, she adds, continues to make matters worse by expelling groups who want to help. "We all know from the 20th century what happens when a government that is intent on committing genocide also knows that people aren't watching." I covered President Clinton's visit to Rwanda in 1998 and I remember how he acknowledged that he had earlier learned of the massacres there but failed to act. It was something he deeply regretted. History, Power said, is going to remember that a million people died under the watch of an American president. Now, President Bush and other world leaders are being pushed by Power, Clooney and others to help. Clooney says he and Bush (on this issue) are on the same page. "Most of the world is on the same page, if they are reading the book. Unfortunately, that book isn't getting read often, or loud enough. My job is to try and bring attention to that."

Newsweek's party featured George Clooney, George Clooney and George Clooney along with beauty siren Georgette Mosbacher, actor Ron Silver, Ambassador of Kuwait Salem Al- Sabah and wife Rima, CNN's Cristiane Amanpour, NBC's David Gregory, New York Governor George Pataki and Lally Weymouth; National Journal's party hosted by David Bradley and John Fox Sullivan starred Time Magazine's Matt Cooper; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; actors Laurence Fishburne, Maura Tierney, and Doris Roberts; CQ's Keith White, Andrea Mitchell and musician John Legend. The Saturday night gala came midway through a hangover-inducing week of parties, preparties and after parties. Joe Wilson was everywhere. Valerie Plame was almost everywhere. George Clooney was somewhere .Vice-President Dick Cheney was nowhere.

Rupert Murdoch and Hillary Clinton

Dan Senor and Andrea Mitchell
Jack and Mary Margaret Valenti


Begging's not pretty, but someone's gotta do it. If you didn't get an invite to the Bloomberg After Party there were many reasons to grovel, mainly that it was the hottest party in town. If you managed to get past the high-tech security check-in where your whole life flashed before you, you got to trade Colbert barbs with Alex Trebeck, GQ cover-ready David Bass with W cover-ready wife Hope, cosmetics executive Jane Lauder, PR wiz Howard Rubenstein, Jonathan Tisch and the New York Giant's Tiki Barber. It was a jungle in there and that didn't include the body count. Thanks to Bloomberg, guests were left wondering if the tiger prancing across a background projection screen was actually a camouflaged NSA agent. If so, the agents got their money's worth as I'm sure it beats trolling through phone records all day. As for potentially annoyed Kalorama neighbors, a WL confidant relays this little scoop: "Bloomberg treated all to a night at The Four Seasons Hotel and coughed up tickets to the after party as well."

Not the Orient Express, but those who "skipped" or weren't invited to the Bloomberg bash took the fast lane bus to the "K Street" nightclub downtown. The cushy Reuters America trail ride deposited throngs of relatively young reporters, who rubbed elbows with lobbyists, wire reporters and trade journalists drinking colorful martinis.

Mike Wallace
Lorraine and Chris Wallace

Brit hume and Vice President Dick Cheney
Ed Ahn

Rob Marshall, Tammy Haddad, Capricia Marshall and Karen Finney
Maura Tierney and Jake Tapper

Dana and Jeremy Bash
David Gregory, wife Beth Wilkinson and children

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