Today is Washington's hour of that annual tradition, the White House Correspondents Dinner, thus time for my annual tradition — rereading The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton's gentle abomination of 19th-century New York's high society, infused, as it was, by "minute observances and exactions," by "tyrannical trifles binding one hour to the next," by "watchful servants," by "perpetually renewed stacks of cards and invitations," by a "systematized and affluent existence," by unreality, precariousness, irrelevance.
Like everything else, polarization will give birth to post-event opinions of tonight's gala: the president was either hilarious or embarrassing, depending on which letter, R or D, precedes the spectating reviewer's name, and the dinner's host was either hilarious or embarrassing, depending on same. Yet arguing either will be impossible by me, for I shall be vicariously rereading Wharton instead.
I realize, of course, that my duck-and-cover safety maneuver will provide little protection from tonight's extravaganza fallout; Sunday morning's "public affairs" shows will each dissect the incestuous orgy with an obligatory prep-school hail-fellow-well-metness, as will Monday's cable-news stars. All will underscore their indispensability to Washington society's gracious workings — and each will make me sick to my stomach.
I have bitched about the WHCD every year for a number of years now, just as others of some prominence have moaned ("There was more dignity at my daughter’s junior prom than there is [at] what I’m seeing on C-SPAN there," observed Tom Brokaw), all manner of goo-goo government types have griped, and rare proponents of journalistic distance have squealed in acute, conscientious pain. Yet no amount of offense taken has made any difference. The clubby monstrosity has just gotten uglier — as it will again next year. It has finally achieved what all such monstrosities seek: our resignation.