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You gotta admit: Given how Washington’s party/dinner/gala scene can oftentimes feel like like “Groundhog Day,” last night’s “The Week” Opinion Awards dinner was a breath of fresh air.

The crowd was small, impressive and intimate and it lended itself to moments like when Bloomberg D.C. Bureau Chief Al Hunt approached one table and said “Hey, it’s Attila the Hun!” The wait staff was — wait for it — attentive and, like any good party, the dinner ended up at the hotel bar where, naturally, Tammy Haddad conducted the attendees like an orchestra.

The panel discussion with Sir Harold Evans (dude: we know you’re, like, a sir and all and that means all sorts of affected “I’m thinking!” gestures like carefully folded arms and stuff, but stop pacing back and forth across the stage! The seats are there for a reason.), Karl Rove, Howell Raines and Doug Schoen was heated not only on stage (Raines to Rove: “Would you just let me finish one paragraph please?” / Evans to Rove: “Keep quiet just for a second” … see write-ups here and here), but off stage as well, as when a handful of people flapped their arms so that Ana Marie Cox could press Rove on why Gov. Dukakis was considered soft on crime (As Alex Pareene might shout out, “Yeah, 1988 baby!“). Or when one audience member shouted at Rove, “Try not to lie!” Or when Rove accused Ruth Marcus of being a kiss-ass to Ben Bradlee. Or when one reporter nervously introduced herself to Howell Raines and confessed her high school crunch on him. You get the drift.

Per usual (cuz we love you, readers), loads of photos after the jump…

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