WASHINGTON - Washington, New York and Hollywood held their annual schmoozefest Saturday night, and the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner (#nerdprom on Twitter) showed new evidence of being completely overrun by red-carpet-posing actors, singers, sports superstars, models and other outsiders who couldn't possibly name the ranking Democrat of the House Ways and Means Committee, much less its chairman.
Actor Michael Douglas, who has played a U.S. president and spent time with presidents, paused graciously during a chat with former secretary of state Madeleine Albright to answer a tough question: What's the difference between the real presidency and the Hollywood conception of the presidency? He mulled that for a second and then said, "We know how the script ends."
The real president arrived at the Washington Hilton at 7:08 p.m., disappeared from public view and reappeared in the ballroom at 8:15, accompanied throughout by the first lady.
Obama's remarks were, until the very end, a frothy mix of self-deprecation and digs at the media and his Republican adversaries. He got a big laugh early by showing a magazine cover, Senior Living, with his photo on it: "I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist I used to be," he said.
He noted that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had said he should be more like Douglas in the movie "An American President." Turning to the actor in the audience, the president said: "Michael, what's your secret, man? Could it be that you were an actor in an Aaron Sorkin liberal fantasy? Might that have something to do with it?"
On the changing media landscape: "I remember when BuzzFeed was just something I did in college around 2 a.m."
On Marco Rubio and 2016: "The guy has not finished a single term in the Senate, and he thinks he's ready to be president. Kids these days!"
He concluded by turning serious about the bombing in Boston, the explosion in Texas and flooding in the Midwest: "Even when the days seem darkest, we have seen humanity shine at its brightest."
The correspondents' dinner is officially a way to honor good journalism and hand out scholarships, but in recent years, it has drawn fire for being excessively focused on Hollywood celebrities and fostering too much coziness between journalists and the people they cover. News organizations buy tables at the dinner and invite advertisers, political leaders and, as the social garnish, celebrities. But some news organizations decline to attend. This year, veteran TV broadcaster Tom Brokaw said he wouldn't come, saying the final straw had been the 2012 attendance of Lindsay Lohan.
This year, the celebrity contingent tended to be well-bred TV drama stars who almost blended in with the more photogenic of the media heavyweights. (And vice versa: "Is that Josh Hutcherson?" asked a strategist for a political lobbying firm, pointing to a young man with the well-groomed looks of a "Hunger Games" character. No, that was Chris Hughes, publisher of the New Republic.)