A roast too far

Saturday night's White House Correspondents Dinner was the ugly face of American journalism, where wit has been replaced by wickedness.

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

If you ask Sarah Sanders, President Trump’s press secretary, she would likely agree that some days it doesn’t pay to get up.

For certain it was a mistake for her to get up for Saturday night’s White House Correspondents Dinner -- a whimsical back-slapping shindig, unless you are part of Trump’s team.

That’s when it can get ugly enough to drive you to tears, even when you are known for your toughness. Nobody is that tough…not when the wisecracks get so bitter.

Traditionally, the president himself shows up prepared for some good-natured ribbing and comes prepared to give as well as take…zinger for zinger.

Not this president. Trump, for the second year, declined the invitation. That’s because he knew he had no chance. They’d likely be brutal. This was the Washington press corps – Democrats, the heartless Fake News boys and girls who give him no rest, no breaks, no peace. He’d be in for a pounding and was in no mood to exchange barbs.

For the stand-up routine they’d likely choose a wag known for a vicious streak, and so indeed they chose Michelle Wolf, a comedian the public did not know until today.

For two reasons, Trump thought it would be all right for Sanders to attend the gala; 1, she knows these people. She deals with them every day. They are practically in the same boat. At the briefings and over the past few months she appeared to have earned their grudging respect. Her tough no-nonsense approach and her knack for standing tall against the most withering and ridiculous questions got her high marks.

Two – she is a woman. They wouldn’t dare…

But they did. They did when they chose Wolf who began with the politics and then turned to the personal, commenting harshly and unfavorably on Sanders’ physical appearance and thinking it was funny, so funny that she kept laughing at her own jokes – so utterly pleased was she with her brand of wickedness.

Sanders, trouper that she is, put up a brave face, but as the yuks kept coming it was obvious that she was hurting and holding back tears. This had to be painful.

Even some in the crowd started shifting in their seats and some even knew that this was not American Journalism’s finest moment.

They became uncomfortable because Wolf’s smack-talk was precisely the prejudice and vulgarity they privately had in mind for President Trump.

Wolf was saying in 15 minutes what they were thinking for 15 months, and being so exposed, even they quit laughing and became embarrassed.  

This was not the way it was supposed to go…not that far.

But that’s the shape we’re in, in our politics and what passes for our humor.

From Mark Twain through Will Rogers to Lenny Bruce to Vaughn Meader and Don Rickles, biting satire aimed at our presidents is nothing new to our culture.

We savor it when it is recognized as wit, a lost art these days, lost together with any sense of decency from the men and women who preen themselves as journalists.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He is the author of the international book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal” and most recently the two journalism thrillers “The Bathsheba Deadline” and “News Anchor Sweetheart, Hollywood Edition.” Engelhard is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: www.jackengelhard.com