Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Michelle Wolf keeps the White House Correspondents Dinner alive

In a New York Times piece about Saturday’s White House Correspondents Dinner, the idea was raised that Michelle Wolf might have killed off the dinner. There are talks that there might not be a comedian at the dinner next year — instead this role would be substituted by a speaker or even a musician.

It would be tragic if there wasn’t the typical banter between leaders and comedians at a dinner that shows we live in a society where free speech is encouraged and appreciated.

However, with President Trump skipping the meeting for the second time in as many years, the dinner has lost some of its appeal. It was cool to see leaders roast comedians and important people in society, while also getting jokes told about them. The dinner embodied how America is supposed to work.

I hope to see Trump at the next event, because I think he would be pretty good at roasting the media. He is obviously in an stressful position as president, and blowing off steam by taking jabs at people he dislikes would probably be good for him. I love when he gives ridiculous names to people he disagrees with on Twitter, so this would absolutely give us a few names to remember in the future.

For the people complaining about how political the event is: That’s the whole point. Being able to humorously call out what you see as wrong is great. No one can get too mad because they’re all supposed to be jokes.

Wolf did an excellent job at the dinner. She was funny and tied in current issues in our country. I thought her set was impressive, and it definitely made me a fan of hers.

The funniest part about the fallout from the dinner is how Republicans have responded. Known to be a party that criticizes the left for trying to silence speech they disagree with, many leaders harshly condemned Wolf — which is ironic because that was everything Wolf talked about in her performance.

Mike Huckabee took to Twitter to say that the left should continue to eat Tide pods after Wolf took aim at his daughter, Sarah. It honestly might have been the funniest interaction of the whole dinner. Huckabee equates eating Tide pods — something that was trending on social media for two days — to a political comedy routine. I usually like to see both sides of an issue, but this was too funny not to openly side with Wolf.

Wolf is a funny comedian, and I don’t think the dinner’s executive board did a great job screening who they selected. I only say that because they should have known that with a president like Trump, there is a lot to discuss. Someone had to know that she was going to cause a lot of backlash with her set. If they weighed their options and still picked her — knowing she would be ruthless — then kudos to them.

The bottom line is the dinner used to be a fun time for Americans to see their leaders acting like normal people. This is not something we see from a president that is currently in office. It makes us feel a little bit better if the leader of our nation has a pretty good sense of humor. It’s hard to think that Republicans disapproved of Barack Obama being roasted.

One final thought: The last time a president that isn’t Trump missed the dinner was in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was recovering from an assassination attempt. It seems to me that sometimes you just have to let yourself be open to face-to-face criticism.

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