The White House Correspondents Association is having its annual dinner tonight.
One of the normal attendees is missing. That would be the president of the United States. Are you surprised? Me neither.
Donald J. Trump has declared the media to be the “enemy of the people.” He has accused the media of peddling “fake news.” He said just today that the media have “purposely” reported “negatively” his first 100 days in office.
Did anyone really expect the president to stand before a large banquet room full of media representatives, wisecrack his way through a routine, slap a few backs as if he really harbors no ill feelings toward the media? Of course not!
What the president has done, of course, is attack an institution that was guaranteed protection from government bullying and coercion. That guarantee is written explicitly in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That has not mattered to the president, who has banned certain media outlets access to his administration and scolded certain media members harshly in public for allegedly reporting falsehoods.
How ironic it is. You’ll recall that in 2011 Trump — then just a mere real estate mogul and reality TV celebrity — sat among the media at a White House correspondents dinner. That was the event in which President Barack Obama poked fun at Trump, needling him for promoting the “fake news” about the president’s place of birth and assorted other mistruths. He did all that, by the way, on the same day he ordered the CIA-Navy SEAL operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
Hey, maybe Donald Trump believes Barack Obama’s act is too difficult to follow, given the former president’s impeccable comic timing. Nah, probably not.
Maybe the president will bury the hatchet with the media and recognize publicly that the media have a job to do, which is to hold public officials — including the president of the United States — accountable for their actions and decisions.