Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Salon has an excerpt of Boehlert's book (just click through the damn ad).

Both the press and the White House were guilty of hyping the WMDs' existence, and both often avoided taking a serious look back. Unless, of course, it was to look back and have a good laugh together about the administration's fruitless hunt. The backslapping occurred on March 24, 2004, at the annual black-tie dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association, held at the Washington Hilton. The eagerly anticipated social event attracted a media-saturated crowd of approximately 1,500 people who were treated to a tongue-in-cheek address from Bush. Tradition held that sitting presidents took the opportunity at the Correspondents dinner to poke fun at the press as well as themselves. Bush did just that during his ten-minute, professionally written monologue, delivering some topical zingers: "'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.' My Cabinet could take some pointers from watching that show. In fact, I'm going to have the Fab Five do a makeover on [Attorney General John] Ashcroft."

Then Bush turned to the "White House Election-Year Album," as photos flashed on the screen behind his podium. One showed Bush gazing out an oval office window as he provided the narration: "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere!" The audience laughed. Then came a picture of Bush on his hands and knees peering under White House furniture. "Nope, no weapons over there!" The MSM audience laughed harder. And then came a snapshot of Bush searching behind the drapes. "Maybe under here?" The audience roared in approval -- Bush couldn't find the WMDs!

The next morning, newspaper reporters who laughed out loud themselves at the Correspondents dinner dutifully typed up the jokes. It wasn't until some Democratic members of Congress, along with parents whose children had been killed in Iraq, expressed their disgust that it dawned on some members of the MSM that Bush's jokes might be considered offensive. Even after objections were raised the MSM rallied around Bush arguing the jokes were no big deal. In fact, it was telling how the MSM were reading off the exact same talking points as the Bush supporters in the right-wing press. Their mutual message was simple -- lighten up! On National Review Online, conservative talk show host Michael Graham, who attended the Correspondents dinner, mocked the critics: "Somehow, over the past 30 years, liberalism has mutated into something akin to an anti-comedy vaccine. The more you're Left, the less you laugh."

The supposedly liberal Los Angeles Times completely agreed. In an unsigned editorial, the paper belittled Democrats and anyone else who had the nerve to question Bush's sense of wartime humor, or daring to question Beltway tradition: "The truly serious thing about what's known as Washington's 'Silly Season' is whether presidents rise to the challenge." On Fox News, there was heated agreement between Sunday News anchor Chris Wallace and the network's Washington bureau managing editor, Brit Hume, that Bush's WMD jokes were perfectly acceptable.

Wallace: "I still think it's funny."

Hume: "I thought it was a good-natured performance."

But what about Fox liberal Juan Williams? He also had no patience for the Bush critics upset about the jokes: "I think people are petty in the situation."

Washington Post news reporter and Fox panelist Ceci Connelly concurred: "The pictures were funny. I laughed at the photos."