Red Carpet For Ugly People

Reading Peggy Noonan got me into a bad mood, and it was just terrible luck that the next cookie on the plate was this earnest Politico piece by Patrick Gavin on the anniversary of the “controversy” over the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. It seems Tom Brokaw has again broken the silence by expressing the quiet angst of the Beltway press corps at the pollution of this hallowed event by Hollywood celebrities:

Tom Brokaw blames it all on Lindsay Lohan.

Last year, Brokaw became one of the biggest critics of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner after he saw Washington buzzing around and about the troubled Hollywood actress, who was a guest of Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren.

“The breaking point for me was Lindsay Lohan,” Brokaw told POLITICO during a recent interview in his office in the NBC News Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York. “She became a big star at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Give me a break.”

Reading the whole article, it’s unclear to me whether Brokaw is primarily concerned about gate-crashing by Hollywood types, or understands that the whole idiotic phenomenon of journalists dressing up like celebrities to schmooze with the rich and powerful people they are supposed to be writing critically about is itself a tad bit sick-making:

“They [the Great Unwashed] were making their own decisions in their own states, in their own communities, and the congressional ratings were plummeting,” he added. “The press corps wasn’t doing very well, either. And I thought, ‘This is one of the issues that we have to address. What kind of image do we present to the rest of the country? Are we doing their business, or are we just a group of narcissists who are mostly interested in elevating our own profiles?’ And what comes through the screen on C-SPAN that night is the latter, and not the former.”

That is exactly right, but it has nothing to do with the admixture of entertainment industry figures in the proceedings. All the borrowed Hollywood glitter does is to make it clearer than ever that if politics is “show business for ugly people,” as the old saying goes, then the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is their red carpet event. Let the stars of E! take over the whole damn thing, and stop pretending it has anything to do with journalism.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.