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This Town After Trump: Nothing to See Here, Folks

Pro-Trump protestors riot at the Capitol
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Julia Ioffe
July 27, 2021

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.