WASHINGTON, Apr. 28
By Saturday night when Al Hunt says for the 10th time to a guest at the Bloomberg party, "No, the man who made this all possible is not here," we will know if the Republican Party will hold its majorities in the House and Senate.
(By "the man," of course, we mean Kevin Sheekey.)
Most Washington reporters want the Democrats to take control of Congress for various reasons (including that it is a better story than the alternative, and the Waxman leaks are missed), but they are willing to put that desire aside, and at least be semi-neutral, if the President's jokes at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner are funny.
AND if he seems genuinely contrite, and willing to change his ways.
AND if he announces a troop withdrawal, an end to the "domestic" surveillance program (and he must call it that), and that he is putting root beer in the water fountains in the press room.
With a chance to open for Stephen Colber(t) (of the "Colber(t) Repor(t)"), Mr. Bush, in short, must show he is a changed (and humorous) man, if Hastert is to keep the gavel and McConnell is to succeed Frist with the "Maj." in front of his "Ldr." And it all happens at the Hilton and before the C-SPAN cameras.
The President has never pretended to enjoy this event. Each year he has managed to limit his time in the podium spotlight, using props, employing visual tricks, and tossing distractions right and left.
2001: Offered up a slide show, featuring a photo of a nude Jeb Bush (aged four). Quote: "Some people have asked me . . . if the vote recount left any hard feelings between my brother Jeb and me . . . Not a bit! In fact, here's a picture of the governor of Florida."
2002: Shared a mindmeld with comeback-king-of-MTV Ozzy Osbourne, thus shifting the focus to the then-hotter-than-hot musician/family man/reality TV star. Quote: "The thing about Ozzy is, he's made a lot of big hit recordings... 'Party With the Animals.' 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.' 'Facing Hell.' 'Black Skies' and 'Bloodbath in Paradise.' Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff." When Ozzy got on the furniture and made homo-erotic eye contact with "someone" on the dais, The Note lost its mind.
2003: [Bush was exempt from cracking wise in 2003, given the war in Iraq, and the deaths of journalists Michael Kelly and David Bloom. His speech was appropriately brief and somber.]
2004: Tossed out a short little speech (ceding the microphone to Jay Leno), albeit one with a widely repeated quip. Quote: "I thought about giving an economic speech tonight. It really gets me when the critics say I haven't done enough for the economy. I mean, look what I've done for the book publishing industry. You have heard some of the titles: "Big Lies"; "The Lies of George W. Bush."; "The Lies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." I'd like to tell you I've read each of these books, but that would be a lie."
2005: Allowed First Lady Laura Bush to usurp the stage; she looked luminous and showed off killer timing. Her racy remarks and demure delivery gave her husband a pass for another year. Quote: "Nine o'clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep and I'm watching `Desperate Housewives'. With Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife."
The Dickensian-named "Emily Jo Boots" offers a decidely populist curtain raiser of the event here. LINK
The following is a list of those expected attendees who might provide distractions for 2006, many as the guests of People mag: