Joe Biden, the career politician who likes to present himself as an everyman from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and his wife who prefers to be addressed as Dr. Jill Biden, attended the Kennedy Center Honors last night in Washington. The national press was giddy with glee to see a Democrat couple back in the presidential box for the ceremony. Normal is back, baby, and Joe is bringing it.
Normal isn’t so great in this case. It’s a good illustration of the connection between politics and culture in America. Democrat politicians love the entertainment elites because they are of the same political party. Each year, the Kennedy Center hosts a weekend of celebratory events for their honorees. No one enjoys an honor for their own performance more than a person in show biz. The Bidens hosted the five honorees of the 44th Kennedy Center Honors at a White House reception on Sunday evening, as is tradition. The honorees this year are actress Bette Midler, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, opera singer Justino Díaz, Motown producer Berry Gordy and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.
The participation by the Bidens is being noted as a return to normal because, during the four years of the Trump presidency, Trump and Melania chose not to attend the ceremony or host a reception at the White House for the honorees. Why? Because the very people with whom Trump enjoyed relationships in show business during his private citizen days and host of NBC’s wildly successful show, The Apprentice, suddenly turned on Trump when he was elected as a Republican president. He was the same guy, had the same personality but he switched from Democrat to Republican and for that, he was shunned. So, when the Kennedy Center Honors weekend arrived during his first year in office, some of the honorees said they would boycott the ceremony if Trump showed up. Cher, a particularly obnoxious Trump critic, was an honoree in 2018 and she said she would have to accept the award in a bathroom if Trump attended. I know, that statement makes no sense but whoever said that Cher is a rational human being?
For the reception at the White House, in case you are wondering, Joe wore a tux and Jill wore a green gown with “white, silver and black embellishments.” For twenty minutes, Sleepy Joe cracked jokes with the celebs with a particular focus on SNL and Lorne Michaels. Since 1991, there have been six actors who have impersonated Biden.
The group was ushered into the East Room of the White House, welcomed by champagne and music by the President’s Own United States Marine Band.
Perhaps the most memorable point of the president’s near-twenty minute remarks was when he cracked a few jokes when honoring Michaels, who he called a ‘wise guy.’
‘He’s trying out seven guys to play me,’ Biden said, which earned the president his biggest round of applause of the night.
‘Laughter is good for the soul. If you can’t laugh at yourself, we’re in big trouble,’ he said to Michaels, adding: ‘And you make me laugh at myself a lot.’
In the audience was actor Steve Martin, who asked Biden from the crowd if he should play the president on SNL. Martin came to public notice as he became a frequent host on Saturday Night Live.
‘[Michaels] has cultivated talent that’s defined American culture in the 20th century and well into the 21st century. Talent like past Kennedy Center honoree Steve Martin, who’s here today,’ Biden said during his remarks as he looked out to the audience at Marin.
‘Do you want me to play you?’ Martin jested with the president to laughter.
Biden shot back: ‘Steve, I’m afraid you understand me too well.’
From there they went to the Kennedy Center for the ceremony. Biden told the honorees that “their contributions in the arts have helped during the coronavirus pandemic as people ‘search for greater meaning’.” Nah, we were just looking for things to watch and listen to in order to distract ourselves from the fact that the likes of Joe Biden and his pal Fauci were delivering scary pandemic porn on the regular. Kamala and Doug were in attendance, providing a united front as she is making headlines for her dismal performance as vice-president. Also in attendance were Chief Justice John Roberts, Nancy Pelosi, and Caroline Kennedy. Biden’s sister Valerie was there to represent Biden, Inc. And, in case there wasn’t enough sweetness and light being produced from all the glowing press reports, Pete Buttigieg and Chasten sent a thrill up the legs of reporters with the declaration that the evening was their first date night since the birth of their twin babies.
During the ceremony, Trump deranged David Letterman noted that ‘It’s quite nice once again to see the presidential box being occupied,’ during his opening remarks. That sentence delivered a standing ovation for Sleepy Joe.
The crowd applauded wildly for Biden, who was attending with wife Jill, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
‘And the same with the Oval Office,’ Letterman added to laughs when the applause died down.
Speaking of sleepy, SNL’s Michael Che provided a little mild roasting of the president.
In addition to the applause, Biden was also the butt of a few jokes.
During the tribute to Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michael, ‘Weekend Update’ anchor Michael Che said: ‘It’s a bit intimidating to do jokes in front of President Joe Biden’ and then added: ‘C’mon there’s no way he’s still awake right now.’
The camera panned to Biden, showing the president awake, laughing and clapping.
There were a few Republicans at the ceremony. It went late, after 11:00 p.m., and was marred by some technical difficulties.
The event is typically bipartisan but a few Republicans were spotted in the crowd of people walking into the theatre: former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia were among them. Also spotted were Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar, Joe Manchin, Bob Casey, and Bob Menendez. White House press secretary Jen Psaki was also in attendance as was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts.
With Biden, Pelosi and Roberts attending the Honors gala – each in their own box – the three heads of each of the branches of government were in attendance.
This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, guests at the Honors, including the president and first lady, wore face masks. All attendees had to be vaccinated and have a negative COVID test ahead of the event.
‘How does it feel to be in a room and know everyone here’s been vaccinated and tested,’ Kennedy Center chair David Rubenstein said during his remarks in the show. He also thanked the Bidens for attending and the first couple received another standing ovation.
It’s kind of interesting that Biden attended, given his health last week. He sounded terrible, much worse than normal, and he admitted he had a cold. He and his doctor say it isn’t COVID. He may have worn a mask during the Kennedy Center ceremony for the television cameras but at the White House reception, he wasn’t always masked. We’ll see if any COVID cases are reported by the attendees in the next few days.