The Calbuzz Department of Irony, Satire and Life in Imitation of Art was much amused by a weekend dispatch from the White House Correspondents Association dinner, reporting on a bit of mischief dreamed up by Mark Leibovich, the scourge of D.C. decadence.
Leibo is an old Friend of Calbuzz and author of “This Town,” a singular and subtle, full-length takedown of Beltway sleaze and arrogance, published last year. The book doesn’t pretend to be serious political analysis. It purports to be exactly what it is: a surgical slice into the neck of the Society of Bloviators, Dunces and Self Important Personages that infects the nation’s capital.
To highlight the odious behavior of the scumbags, slime peddlers and Hollywood starlets who wait all year for the dinner (which participants love referring to as “Nerd Prom,” in a bit of repulsive fake modesty – check out this terrific essay for an analysis of that tangential issue) our man this year staged a panel discussion, innocently titled “Media Ethics Colloquy” at the Washington Hilton, site of the dinner.
“Media ethics panel at WHCD, at Washington Hilton. 30 minutes in, zero attendees so far. plenty of donuts left,” he tweeted shortly before the gala began.
“Still waiting for first attendee at WHCD media ethics colloquy at Hilton.. where Is everyone??” he wrote, a few minutes later.
“By the way, following WHCD Media Ethics Colloquy — attendance zero — we will be repairing to after-party, sponsored by Dioxin Foundation,” came his final word on the subject.
Paperback prank: We hasten to note that Leibovich’s sleaze-shaming prank came the very weekend when the paperback edition of his opus came out, so his caper carried more than a whiff of self–interest.
This minor case of self-dealing may be excused, however, if only because the author’s deliciously detailed reporting on the ways that pols, lobbyists and media types all happily prosper and party hearty within their Beltway bubble of greed, grasping and government corruption, is now cited as the source of a spate of self-awareness that has stricken at least a few dinner denizens. Writes Slate’s indispensable David Weigel:
Mark Leibovich’s…study of D.C. rottenness was criticized for “pulling punches.” No one fled the city in disgrace because of it, which might have led to the impression that Leibovich was overly soft. He wasn’t—the book had a delayed shaming effect…The book spent 12 weeks on the NYT best-seller list, and it absolutely has restored a little shame where shame had been forgotten.
Last word to Leibo, who doubles as a New York Times Magazine writer when he’s not issuing jeremiads against his colleagues:
There’s not a lot to celebrate. I mean, the rest of the country does not look with great esteem upon our city, and yet over a five-day period… $50 million or so are spent like on entertainment, transportation, hospitality, food…
I think that it’s morphed into this extravaganza of more than two dozen pre-parties and after parties, and we have to ask ourselves, what are we celebrating exactly?
Life inside the incubator, Chapter 36: Speaking of news industry folly, the decline of the once-noble Chronicle, under nearly 15 years of ownership by the mighty Hearst Corp., has descended to new depths of fatuousness and farce.
The tweet photo posted here — with its astonishing caption: “Who has a prettier boss?” –- is not, as one might be forgiven for thinking at first glance, a self-indulgent selfie of a couple of silly adolescents. No, it is a self-indulgent, silly selfie of the Chronicle’s highest-ranking business and editorial executives, a splendid symbol of the paper’s long slide into enervation.
Why are these women smiling?
The beaming person on the left is no less a figure than Kristine Shine, president (!) of the Chron and SFGate, whose last great journalistic endeavor was leading the Pulitzer Prize-winning the Peninsula Press Club award-winning super-cool website PopSugar in its unstinting efforts to outpace the pack in coverage of David Beckham’s torso tattoos and Kim Kardashian’s butt; the grinning one on the right is managing editor and top newsroom honcho Audrey Cooper, widely known for perorating on her own brilliance in re-inventing journalism in a jiffy.
While Shine and Cooper beam as Fifth and Mission burns, the moth-eaten, Pleistocene-era geezers of Calbuzz earnestly struggle, not only to discern what in the name of God made these two think it was a fine idea to share their oh-so-precious image of double vanity with the rest of the world, but also to pinpoint the single worst aspect of their exercise in cloying self-regard:
a) It’s mortifying for people who work for them.
b) It demeans an institution that purportedly provides thought leadership to one of the more intelligent audiences in the nation.
c) That it doesn’t make them flush with embarrassment and shame speaks volumes about their cluelessness.
d) “Prettier”? Really?
e) It insults the labors and perseverance of generations of women journalists who had to fight to be judged on their work, not their looks.
The correct answer is: e).
Calbuzz gets results: Kudos to Paul Rogers and Josh Richman of the San Jose Murky News for getting embattled Rep. Mike Honda on the record in agreeing to go mano-a-mano with challenger and fellow Democrat Ro Khanna (albeit only after the primary, assuming they come in first and second).
The biggest news of the evening, however, may have come afterward when Honda, in response to a question from this newspaper, agreed to debate Khanna in the future. For months the congressman, seeking an eighth term in a district that runs from Fremont to San Jose to Sunnyvale, has turned down multiple invitations to debate. Khanna has blasted Honda for agreeing to participate only in scripted events.
Honda promised that after the primary, in which only the top two candidates will advance to the November election, he will go head-to-head with Khanna on a debate stage.
“I think that makes sense because it will be one-on-one,” said Honda, D-San Jose.
Khanna beamed when he heard the news.
(Idle question: if it was “the biggest news of the evening,” why wasn’t it the lede instead of the third graf? But we digress).
As loyal readers will recall, it was way back in 2013 when Calbuzz pointed to Khanna’s expected challenge to Honda as one of the best races that would unfold in 2014. Our interview remains the most comprehensive to date in putting him on the record on a host of important issues for the voters of the 17 CD:
“If people are happy with the way Congress is acting and they don’t want disruption, then they should be voting for Mike Honda. And if they think that something needs to be done to change something differently, then they’ll take a chance and vote for me. That’s really what the election will come down to.”