The White House Correspondents Dinner might sound like a gray and boring journalistic event, but for Washingtonians, it's becoming Hollywood Night. Among the celebrities attending this year's D.C. dinner were Richard Gere, Elisabeth Shue, Dennis Hopper and Jane Fonda. First Lady Laura Bush drew rave reviews from the pundits for her comedic routine playing on ABC's trashy new hit "Desperate Housewives." Mrs. Bush joked that she not only watched the show, but she was a "desperate housewife" who took Mrs. Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes to see male strippers at Chippendales, where they stuff dollar bills in the dancers' drawers, and that Mrs. Cheney's new Secret Service name was "Dollar Bill."
It shouldn't be surprising that Hollywood's elite looked askance that some uptight, straitlaced, parent-prodding complainers were upset with the First Lady, wondering why she, of all people, had to promote that sleazy ABC show. (It certainly doesn't need the publicity -- you can't make it through "Access Hollywood" or "Entertainment Tonight" without your dose of "Desperate" hype.) It's some of the worst American pop culture has to offer, and will qualify as one of our foulest exports when it hits the international TV market, with America-bashers around the world declaring that America is captured perfectly by that cartoonish show: soulless wealthy people misbehaving in the most shameful ways imaginable. God bless America.
There is, of course, another side to the story. Mrs. Bush has never actually seen the show, and clearly her tongue was placed firmly in cheek. What made the First Lady's routine such a smash with the crowd was the implausibility of it all. Those who follow the Bushes around with notebooks for their employment would find Laura Bush to be the antithesis of a "Desperate Housewife." The routine was funny because it was Mrs. Bush delivering it.
Still, still. If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, then the White House Correspondents Dinner is turning out to be the tribute that virtue pays to vice. Three years ago, President Bush was hailing Ozzy Osbourne, then the pop-culture sensation of the moment for his MTV "reality" show best known for showcasing his dysfunctional family and his never-ending trail of bleeped obscenities. At least the president gave the audience a good sense of the weirdness of Ozzy's metal tunes: "'Party With the Animals.' 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.' 'Facing Hell.' 'Black Skies,' and 'Bloodbath in Paradise.' Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff." And with that Ozzy became the toast of the town, the center of media attention for that year's Hollywood-meets-Washington weekend.