Do you remember when we invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein wouldn’t turn over his weapons of mass destruction and we looked around and slowly realized that he hadn’t possessed any weapons of mass destruction to turn over?

Those were good times. Fun times. The best of times, really, if you think back on it.

It was before the Great Recession, before we realized just how badly our invasion had upset the balance of powers in the Middle East and screwed up the world.

It was during those innocent days that President George W. Bush attended the sixtieth annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association black-tie dinner and joked about not being able to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

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The best part of the president’s stand-up routine was how well it was received by the guests.

The Washington Post seemed to find this something of a howl. Jennifer Frey’s report, carried on the front page of the Style section—under the headline, “George Bush, Entertainer in Chief”—led with Donald Trump’s appearance, and mentioned without comment Bush’s “recurring joke” of searching for the WMD.

The Associated Press review was equally jovial: “President Bush poked fun at his staff, his Democratic challenger and himself Wednesday night at a black-tie dinner where he hobnobbed with the news media.” In fact, it is hard to find any immediate account of the affair that raised questions about the president’s slide show. Many noted that the WMD jokes were met with general and loud laughter.

The reporters covering the gala were apparently as swept away with laughter as the guests. One of the few attendees to criticize the president’s gag, David Corn, then of The Nation, told me he heard not a single complaint from his colleagues at the after-party. Corn wondered if they would have laughed if President Reagan, following the truck bombing of our Marines barracks in Beirut, which killed 241, had said at a similar dinner: “Guess we forgot to put in a stop light.”

The strange thing is that all these years later a lot of these same reporters are much, much less amused and unforgiving about Hillary Clinton’s alleged inability to find her “message.”

I advise Hillary to attempt a reprise. The next time she does a press conference, she should start looking under her papers, the podium, inside the microphone, all the while mumbling, “Nope…no message her. Not here. Or here…”

Let’s see how amused Chuck Todd is by that act.

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at