April 29, 2017 is America Held Hostage Day #100. Time flies in these States United. Then it drags people off planes. Other people scream and take videos. Is it just me or do The 100 Days of Our Trump Lives feel as long as The One Hundred Years War? Longer?
Turns out April 29 is also the date of the White House Correspondents Dinner. and the anniversary of the night that Mr. Cool Comic, then President Obama – sigh – chrisrocked then Citizen Trump. Obama scanned the schmantzy journo in-crowd, noted many politicos present, spotted Trump, the racist birther, and remarked, “And Donald Trump is here,” – then the pause that launched a thousand tweets – and a devastatingly deadpanned, “Why?”
Oh no he ditn’t!
Not to comic-brag the power of a well-delivered punch line, but I think that public cuck sealed the deal for Donald Trump. In murky C-SPAN reruns you can see a tiny tremor in the stoic jut-jawed jowls of his orangina-tinged profile. I believe it is the precise moment Trump felt something in his gut, other than an undigested, gnarly chaw of well-done steak, and decided to run for president. He would answer that question with his own, “Why not?” Also, “What the hell have you got to lose?”
That might have also been the moment when all the journalists in the room lost the ability to do their jobs. Perhaps their plated salads had gone bad in the ego-terrorism of the cocktail hour.
It has been a brutal year for the press. They were screamed at, scorned and ignored. And that was just me. One afternoon during the campaign, I flipped through multiple cable channel cameras focused for hours on an empty Trump/Pence podium in a flag-bedecked hangar, intercut by slow pans of long lines of people in red MAGA hats waiting for their savior to appear, as a panel of journalists wondered how in the world Trump got so much press. Meanwhile, in a small inset in the lower right corner of my TV screen, Hillary Clinton was giving a major foreign policy speech. She was muted. I turned it all off. After three hours.
Days after Trump won the Electoral College Bowl Game, Samantha Bee and her “Full Frontal” staff, after they had stopped sobbing, were imagining what the White House Correspondents Dinner would be like with President Trump on the dais. Perhaps they still remembered then-candidate Trump’s hilarious set at the Al Smith Knights of Columbus dinner in October in NYC. Even jolly old incarnadine Cardinal Dolan, who runs a Predator Protection Service, sat there fatly uncomfortable. It was awkward.
So awkward that as a public service, Bee sent out a save-the-date notice for her own alternate gala on April 29: the “Not the White House Correspondents Dinner: A Toast to the Free Press. While We Still Have One.” It’s BYOB and all proceeds will benefit the Committee to Protect Journalism.
Shortly after Bee’s invite went out, Trump broke hearts and shadenfreude-deprived minds everywhere by announcing he wouldn’t attend the 2017 dinner with the crooked media. Hashtag: Trump does not do hypocrisy. Dinner organizers named Hassan Minhaj, the “Muslim Reporter” on Trevor Noah’s show to be the evening’s emcee and ritual sacrifice.
Samantha Bee, fully loaded by her staff of mostly women writers (meaning more than two) has been like a semi-automatic comic firing off rounds of endless one-liners in beautifully crafted, incredibly researched bursts of outrage. Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Steven Colbert have all upped their game.
MSNBC’s Monsignor Lawrence O’Donnell has heaped praise on late-night comics for speaking truth to power. Why does he always sound like he’s simultaneously translating himself from the Latin? And why does the translation sound like he’s giving the press absolution from doing their jobs? For the sins of their campaign coverage there are already signs of some penance. Congrats on the Bill O’Reilly takedown. And Mike Flynn. Keep investigating the Trump-Putin ties. The Trump family looting. Reveal Trump’s tax records. Dig into Cabinet double-dealing. Follow the money.
But the players are getting played anew, madly chyroning “The 100th Day of Trump” and running a “Possible Government Shutdown” tagline. Once again, they’ve got it all wrong. Heartbreaking news: April 29th is the 100th day of the Government Shutdown.
Kate Clinton is a longtime humorist. She writes regularly for the Blade.