The White House Correspondents’ Dinner: Is it a good thing or a bad thing? A very thoughtful answer comes from President Obama’s longtime joke-writer David Litt, who acknowledged in a New York Times piece this week that the dinner is a “gross” mix of politicians, journalists and celebrities—and then went on to argue convincingly for its political and cultural utility.
The nut of his argument: The annual presidential roast and self-deprecating speech is symbolically good for democracy.
Let other nations’ leaders cast themselves as flawless demigods, towering over the mere mortals they control. In America, we expect our chief executives to poke fun at themselves on live TV. Our leaders must acknowledge that, despite their awesome power, they are only human. The audience demands it. In a small way, democracy demands it as well.
Litt lists other reasons, too—and if his piece isn’t the last word on this subject, it’ll do until one gets here. —DM