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‘Appearance Is As Important As Reality’

It falls to Gene Robinson this year to write the obligatory self-flagellating column about the impropriety of the administration and the press getting together for all these “fun” press dinners.

Today, he has some questions about this weekend’s Gridiron dinner:

“The point isn’t the program or the performances. The point is that the nation’s leading journalists get together with the people they are supposed to hold accountable and have an evening of penguin-suited, designer-gowned fellowship….

“With apologies to my hosts, I ended up feeling conflicted about the whole thing.

“Reporters wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t get to know the officials they cover. Politicians, even those who I believe have wrong ideas about everything, tend to be garrulous and fun to be around. The Gridiron dinner and other similar events on the calendar each year seek to demonstrate that adversaries don’t have to be enemies.

“But we reporters are always pointing out to officials that as far as conflict of interest is concerned, appearance is as important as reality. That’s why I left the Gridiron dinner with that vague unease: I wondered what it looked like to people who weren’t in that ballroom.

“The day after the dinner, reporters went back to trying to pry information out of this ultra-secretive administration. But I wondered what people in Seattle or New Orleans or Cleveland would think if they saw the journalistic elite at such jocular ease with the officials whose feet they hold to the fire.

“Houston, do we have an appearance problem?”

The answer, of course, is yes. The answer has always been yes, but that’s unlikely to change anything. After all, Saturday night was the 121st Gridiron dinner, meaning that the appearance problem was existed roughly since the Gilded Age of Grover Cleveland. Good luck with your crusade, Gene.

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