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White House Correspondents Toast McClellan

On Monday evening, December 12, the rancor and edginess that is so familiar to regular viewers of the White House press briefings vanished amid holiday cheer and food.  

The White House Correspondents Association held its Christmas party at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C., and had as its guest of honor someone who has been frequently likened to a piñata for the scribes:  Scott McClellan, press secretary to the President.

The televised confrontations between the Bush Administration’s top spokesman and members of the Fourth Estate who cover McClellan’s daily briefings have become heated lately.  

When the name of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove was first mentioned in connection with the revelation of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity this summer, McClellan was pelted with no less than 47 questions about Rove and Plame at his afternoon briefing.  More than a few reporters said he called that day on talk show host Les Kinsolving (who inevitably asks long-winded questions about subjects other reporters avoid) and Raghuibir Goyal of the India Globe (who almost always asks about India and Pakistan) as “lifelines.”  (A beaming Goyal was at the Marriott festivities, eagerly snapping pictures of McClellan with his camera).

In October, a session over White House support for a proposed exemption for the CIA to the torture ban being pushed by Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) led to a particularly stormy exchange between McClellan and correspondent April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Network.  Again, McClellan closed the briefing by calling on Goyal, who asked a question about relief for flood-wracked India that sounded, according to a fellow correspondent, “as if he were making a speech in a parliament.”

In introducing McClellan to the revelers, Associated Press White House correspondent and Association President Mark Smith hailed him as “someone we all like, even though we may torture him every day.”  Ken Hermann of the Cox Newspapers, resident wit of the Brady Briefing Room at the White House, thereupon called out, “We don’t torture!” and brought down the house. (Hermann’s rapier wit was in good form throughout the party; when a fellow guest congratulated him on being named one of the “50 best reporters in Washington” by Washingtonian Magazine, the veteran reporter deadpanned: “It’s really helped sales of the Ken Hermann action doll figure this Christmas!”).  

Loudly cheered by those who cover him, McClellan thanked them for “doing your job” and expressed his pleasure at regularly answering their questions.  He then departed for a Christmas party hosted by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card.

Written By

John Gizzi has come to be known as â??the man who knows everyone in Washingtonâ? and, indeed, many of those who hold elected positions and in party leadership roles throughout the United States. With his daily access to the White House as a correspondent, Mr. Gizzi offers readers the inside scoop on whatâ??s going on in the nationâ??s capital. He is the author of a number of popular Human Events features, such as â??Gizzi on Politicsâ? and spotlights of key political races around the country. Gizzi also is the host of â??Gizziâ??s America,â? video interviews that appear on Gizzi got his start at Human Events in 1979 after graduating from Fairfield University in Connecticut and then working for the Travis County (Tex.) Tax Assessor. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and TV shows, including Fox News Channel, C-SPAN, America's Voice,The Jim Bohannon Show, Fox 5, WUSA 9, America's Radio News Network and is also a frequent contributor to the BBC -- and has appeared on France24 TV and German Radio. He is a past president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, past member of the St. Matthew's Cathedral's Parish Council, and secretary of the West End Friends of the Library. He is a recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. John Gizzi is also a credentialed correspondent at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He has questioned two IMF managing directors, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Christine LaGarde, and has become friends with international correspondents worldwide. Johnâ??s email is JGizzi@EaglePub.Com

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