It was a cinch that Trump would skip the dinner this year even before he declined their invitation in February. For one thing, he’s had … bad experiences at the WHCD. In terms of his own expected remarks, he can be very funny off the cuff but doesn’t do as well with scripted humor, as last year’s Al Smith dinner proved. And even if he came armed with A-list material and was prepared to be a good sport, there’s no way the evening wouldn’t have turned into an insulting Colbert-style flaying of the president to his face a la what happened to Bush in 2006. The big winner tonight is comedian Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show,” the keynote speaker, who would have come under tremendous pressure from “the Resistance” to tear Trump six new a**holes if the president had decided to attend. As it is, with Trump absent, Minhaj can skip the heavier-handed “truth to power” material and stick to 25 minutes of jokes about Trump’s “Muslim ban” or whatever.
Trump could have gone to Mar-a-Lago and privately fumed at the fun being made of him tonight in Washington but someone (probably Bannon) had the bright idea to counter the most elitist night in national politics with a dose of populism. So he’s gone to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, instead to mark his first hundred days atop the “blue wall” that he cracked in November. The rally begins at 7:30 ET and will probably be carried live on the cable news nets — but if it isn’t, you can watch below. The WHCD gets going around the same time but the main speakers, including Minhaj, typically don’t go on until around 9, which means you can watch the two events sequentially to contrast the tones. That’s what the White House is hoping for, I’m sure: There’s bound to be some nasty highlight-reel crack from the dinner featured on CNN tomorrow, with the media glitterati laughing it up in the audience, followed by footage of Trump addressing an adoring crowd of rural swing-state voters. I assume Trump will reference the dinner too, to make it even easier for cable-news editors to link coverage of the two events. Hats off to the White House for a brilliant bit of counterprogramming.
The dinner will be carried live as usual on CSPAN and streamed in the second clip below. To give you a sense of how eager the left is to use tonight as a pretext to vent about Trump, Samantha Bee will be hosting her own WHCD-themed special at 11 ET on TBS (streamed live on Twitter) to give him a second flaying after Minhaj gets done with his own. Denying liberals the pleasure of insulting him to his face at the dinner means Trump must be punished with an extra helping of insults. Read this if you haven’t already and tell me who’s most likely to benefit from that.
Exit question: Trump isn’t really planning to go to the WHCD next year, is he? He’ll just have the same problems I described above.