Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


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

Each spring, the tribal rite the press holds for itself gets more crowded with folks who've never been inside a newsroom or held political office and has become less satisfying as a result. Celebrities still come (James Denton of Desperate Housewives, Maura Tierney of ER) but not many more than once. One was embarrassed to say that until his limo pulled up to the Hilton, he thought he was going for dinner at the White House. Imagine what a comedown it is to be in a low-ceilinged ballroom with 2,500 of the president's closest friends. You'd be closer to George Bush if you watched the thing on C-Span. The parties surrounding the dinner are the tail that wags the dog. Who doesn't covet an invitation to lunch at Tammy Haddad's house and the after-party thrown by Bloomberg (despite ear-splitting, conversation-stopping music) more than the dinner? What made news this year is the debate over the entertainment. Inside the room, Stephen Colbert died. Outside, the failure to laugh at his routine, five minutes of which was devoted to an endless video of Colbert stalked by veteran correspondent Helen Thomas, was final proof that the MSM is hopelessly out of touch. On this, the bloggers have a point, but not because Colbert was remotely funny. The dinner reveals an inside-the-Beltway coziness the public suspects but rarely witnesses. The reporters asking multi-part questions at an East Room press conference are the same ones laughing too hard at Bush (and his evil, but very funny, twin) on Saturday night. The press is more Rottweiler than lapdog, but you'd never know it from these annual spectacles shown (and reshown) repeatedly on C-Span. The other news is that Academy Award winner George Clooney, the biggest celeb in attendance, is definitely running for office someday. He pretended to remember me, which made my five hours in an airless banquet hall worthwhile and showed he's mastered the shared wisdom of getting ahead in Hollywood and Washington: First, be sincere … after you fake that, everything else is easy.

Tucker Carlson, Bill Press and Amy Shuster
Joe Scarborough and Frank Luntz

Hill Harper, Debra Lee and David Sutthen
Mark and Lyn McFadden

Wolf Blitze
Henry Kissinger and Ron Silver

Susan Hurley Bennett and Jim Power
Nicholas Burns, Madeleine Albright and Fareed Zakaria


Whoever invented the Bloody Mary wasn't paid enough. By the time you got to Cristina and John McLaughlin's annual brunch on the roof of the Hay Adams Hotel on Sunday, you needed one. Rev. Al Sharpton was "feeling chipper" and still weighing in on the President's comment on his approval ratings before going to the Stop Genocide in Darfur rally. "I think it's a whole lot of noise and little substance, [although] I do think that last night was the wrong occasion [for that]." On Colbert, the Rev. said: "He was all right, but a little flat." Baseball Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda held court at the Sunday affair with everyone who preferred to talk about sports (and Iraq). Others feeling chipper after the long weekend included John McCaslin, Bob and Sue Merry, Bob Hormats, former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, Andrea Roane, Queen Noor, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, Desperate Housewives heartthrob James Denton and Sen. Richard Shelby.

George Clooney
Evelyn Farkas and Richard Parker

Hope Bass, David Bass, Christine Taylor and Joseph Fichera
Justice Clarence Thomas, wife Virginia Lamp Thomas and Jan Greenberg Smith

Samantha Power
Kim Alexis and Melissa Charboneau

Dana Milbank, John Starr and Judy Holland
Thomas Keene and Kevin Carmichael


What I look forward to most with each WHCAD (my first one came in 1984 while covering President Reagan) is the inevitable encounter with the unexpected somebody who unwittingly utters the timeliest quote. This 2006 dinner, like previous ones, featured the year's leading newsmakers: President Bush, Valerie Plame, George Clooney, and Tony Snow. And there was the usual lineup of unusual guests, such as Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of the Doobie Brothers, a guest of The Washington Times, who came clad in a kilt. Sure enough, by the time the sun rose over Kalorama on Sunday morning, my notebook was filled with asides and assertions, comments and confessions, exclamations and exaggerations – and phone numbers, so I could corroborate all of the above. While climbing the stairs to John and Cristina McLaughlin's morning after brunch on the rooftop terrace of the Hay Adams Hotel, I realized I still lacked the newspaperman's equivalent of the weekend's best soundbite. But there, suddenly, he was: Lasorda, offering a friendly wave while, off to the side, in their Sunday finest, Desperate Housewives' James Denton and Queen Noor held court.

Sure, Tommy Lasorda knows everything there is to know about baseball, but it wasn't pitching that the Hall of Famer wanted to talk about while taking in the impressive view of the White House below. Rather, the bloody war in Iraq was on his mind: "Whenever I'm at a restaurant and spot somebody in a military uniform, I pick up their check," he told me, "to show them my appreciation for what they're doing for my country." And so read my column lead.

Kelly Carlson
Lee Brenner, Michelle Cottle, Garance Franke-Ruta and Anna Soellner

Michael Strahan

Jim and Angelique Bell
Mass. Gov. Mitt romney and wife Ann

Kimball Stroud, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Rachel Pearson
Ana Marie Cox and chris Lehmann

John podesta and Tony Podesta
Judith Czelusniak

Joel Kaplan, Dan Bartlett and Alyson Barttle
Cristina McLaughlin, Queen Noor and John McLaughlin

Arthur Altschul
David Corn

Rev. Al Sharpton
Erin and James Denton

Michael Chertoff and Patrick Buchanan
Douglas Wilder

Karen Feld, Susan and Peter Levine, Tommy Lasorda and Connie Coopersmith


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