Washington is a strange place. People who don’t live here love to beat up on us, to accuse us of being cynical and corrupt, and full of people who say one thing and do another, and Washington is undoubtedly all those things—though it is also full of some of the biggest idealists I’ve ever met. But what I find mind-boggling about this place is how and why Washington gets outraged.
Remember the time this city absolutely lost its mind when comedian Michelle Wolf was the keynote comedian at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner and went after then-press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders? If you don’t, let me remind you: Every year, the White House Correspondents Association throws a black tie dinner where an A-list comedian is brought in to roast the people in power. In 2018, at the height of Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that tore children away from their parents at the southern U.S. border and just a few days before then-attorney general Jeff Sessions said “we need to take away the children,” Wolf joked that Sanders created the perfect smokey eye by dusting her lids with crushed lies. All press secretaries get creative with the truth but Sarah Huckabee Sanders was infamous for her gymnastic manipulations. But when Wolf tied Sanders’s Olympic feats with her make-up, lots of people felt this was not very nice.
Remember what I told you about the importance of being nice in Washington? It’s very, very important. Because this is a town that, like most towns, runs on personal connections and you never know whom you might need down the line in #thistown. And guess whom you’re probably going to need in the future? That’s right. The president’s press secretary and her off-the-record chats and her responding to your text messages at all hours. And it’s very easy to slam an outsider—a female comedian at that—to score points with the people in power by appealing to the very decorum that the people in power made a fetish of trampling.