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Remembering The Good Old Days Of The White House Correspondents’ Dinner

The annual event features a who's who of D.C. media and political elites. Remembering The Good Old Days Of The White House Correspondents’ Dinner Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

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D.C. politicians and journalists alike showed up for the most recent White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday. In many ways, it followed a familiar outline: a funny host made jokes at the expense of figures on both sides of the political aisle and nobody took themselves too seriously.

But some say the star-studded affair is just a shell of what it was in its glory days.

Two dozen years

According to a pair of Washington Post writers, there was a 24-year period during which the White House Correspondents Association put on a stellar show for attendees and those who watched from home.

The “golden age,” they wrote, began in 1993 when President Bill Clinton made his first appearance.

That event features iconic guests, including none other than Barbra Streisand, and a new president was ushering in what would become a prosperous and generally peaceful period of American history.

It was also the first time the dinner had been broadcast by C-SPAN, giving ordinary Americans a look at the glitz, glamor, and guffaws that define the event.

Clinton made an impression, too, with quips like this one: “I’m not doing so bad. I mean, at this point in his administration, William Henry Harrison had been dead 68 days!

Beginning of the end

The 24-year stretch encompassed the administrations of what the Post dubbed the “cute” presidents: Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

When Donald Trump took office and refused to show up to the annual gala, the entire mood changed. And even though Joe Biden’s election in 2020 signaled a return to normalcy for many Americans, many people think the dinner still hasn’t recaptured its former charm.

Nevertheless, Saturday’s event had a few highlights and Biden later credited host Roy Wood Jr. with doing “a hell of a job.”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee May 1st, 2023
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