Sunday, May 10, 2009

Washington's annual "navel gazing" exercise otherwise known as the White House Correspondents' Dinner

This editor has previously bemoaned Washington's annual "navel gazing" event, otherwise known as the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Over the past eight years, the event has been dominated by the likes of George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and other principals of the Bush-Cheney crime syndicate.

On May 2, 2006, I wrote the following about the annual black tie and "red carpet" affair that combines Hollywood celebrities with inside-the-Beltway politicos:

"While Washington's anemic and pathetic press corps "wooed and wowed" Saturday night at the collection of 2700 Hollywood glitterati and the Beltway's political punditocracy, literati, and lobbying and business elite at the annual navel gazing and self-indulgent White House Correspondents Dinner, serious investigative journalists have been delving into the numerous burgeoning GOP scandals bubbling under the Beltway."

In the days before the 2006 event, a federal grand jury was meeting in Washington and hearing testimony about the Bush White House's leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson's name to several media types who were fawning over Bush and his team at the annual dinner at the Hilton Hotel, known locally as "the Hinckley Hilton," the place where Bush family friend John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan in March 1981.

The atmosphere in DC during the dark years of Bush is definitely brightening a bit under Barack Obama. Courtesy of a veteran radio correspondent for the old Mutual Broadcasting Network who worked with Larry King, I was invited, albeit at the last minute, to attend the pre- and post-dinner parties at the Hilton, which are actually more popular than the dinner mainly because they are where rumors are swapped and "intelligence" is gathered.

There was the chance to finally meet Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, with whom I sparred on his program a few years back over the so-called "War on Christmas." O'Reilly is actually amiable when off camera.

I also ran into former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, number three, who I first met at the GOP Convention in Philadelphia in 2000. Gingrich is strongly rumored to have plans to run for president in 2012.

Also had a brief chat with Ed Shultz about visiting Minot, North Dakota, last year and traveling through his home town of Fargo in pursuit of the story about the "missing" nuclear weapons from Minot Air Force Base.

I also saw CBS News' Bob Schieffer and we had a brief talk about his driving Lee Harvey Oswald's mother from Fort Worth to Dallas after her son was charged with assassinating President Kennedy. Ironically, present at the dinner was Mariska Hargitay, the daughter of actress Jayne Mansfield, who, 1967, was riding in the back seat of the automobile with her two brothers when the vehicle struck the back of a semi-trailer truck. The collision killed her mother, her attorney and boyfriend Sam Brody, and the driver. WMR previously reported that Mansfield was on her way to New Orleans to give District Attorney Jim Garrison notes taken by her friend, columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, from her jail cell interview with Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby.

It was nice to meet longtime Washington insider and politico Peter Fenn, who served as an adviser to Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign. I also congratulted Virginia's Senator and former Governor Mark Warner on his drubbing of the GOP Senate candidate last November. Warner, incidentally, defeated former Virginia Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Jim Gilmore, who has been relegated to the pages political trivia.

I did not have the opportunity to run into Rahm Emanuel, who was present at the dinner with his two brothers, Hollywood uber-agent Ari, and National Institutes of Health scientist Zeke. I also did not have the chance to meet Keith Olbermann, who once said if there was any truth to my report about the Ohio election being stolen by Bush in 2004, he would carry me on his back to received my Pulitzer Prize. Sad, because I had a riding crop at the ready.

The information gleaned from Saturday night will be highlighted in this week's WMR reports.

Much to my surprise, I discovered that WMR is read by a number of people who work for what is commonly referred to as the "mainstream media." And some of the subjects of WMR investigations were also present: at one point I ended up talking to General Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA. He told me he is still in the DC area and living in McLean, Virginia. Our brief conversation did not go much beyond that subject and the event I attended at CIA headquarters last December that honored a Cold War-era Polish spy for the CIA.

Editor (right) with one of our readers (left) who will be familiar to many viewers of "The McLaughlin Group." We sat next to one another in the press box at the Philly convention when George W. Bush accepted the presidential nomination. No one then could have predicted how that event would change the world -- for the worse.

After DC's great and near-great Saturday night, it is now time to get back to investigating a few of them.