Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) promised last year that he would come to Washington, D.C. and "knock the hell out of the place." But last night, young master Quayle crossed the line when he said something mean about a Beltway media organ at a fancy party for the media.
It all went down at the 67th Radio & Television Correspondents' Association dinner, a black-tie affair at which someone decided it would be a good idea to allow Quayle to attempt stand-up comedy.
This is typically how these things work: Beltway journalists get together, they invite someone to tell jokes, and the next day, everyone has an emo hangover over the jokes being lame or the jokes being controversial or the jokes being boring (you can only do so much when boring people are the subjects of the material). Why do they even bother trying to stage a comedy show? Whatever happened to just getting drunk?
Anyway, Ben Quayle was one of the august personages who was invited to perform at this event, and during his "act," he took the time to criticize Politico:
QUAYLE: I want to thank you all for having me here. I'm really honored to be here with so many distinguished speakers and members of the media. I gotta tell you, it's a little weird for me to be speaking at an event that's been sponsored by the media. Although I come from a newspaper family, we seem to have a strained relationship with the press. "Strained" is a polite term for "troubled." And "the press" is a generous term for "Politico." You know, it took everything I had not to refer to Politico as the worst media outlet in history. It's not that I don't believe that assertion, but I don't want to get into hyperbole. So, it's nice to see you, Congressman Hoyer ...
Actually, if he had just stopped at "generous term for Politico," that joke would have been fine. The last two lines seem to be an attempt at irony and perhaps self-effacement, since Quayle is best known for "getting into hyperbole." And then, you need a less thudding transition to the Hoyer joke ... but I digress.
Anyway, as you can hear for yourself, the jokes elicited some laughs, a few claps and a shocked groan, because only the Beltway media would host their own roast and then be shocked to hear someone attempt a roasting.
If I'm at Politico, I can parse that joke and see that Quayle is admitting to being "troubled" by Politico and think back to breaking the story on Quayle's ties to "Dirty Scottsdale" and take these lumps with pride, because whatever, Ben, we got a really good story.
But then I read today's Politico Playbook and I see that Mike Allen is really, deeply aggrieved. Why are you hurting Mike Allen's feelings, Ben? Don't you know that at the end of the party he was going to thank you for coming?
Freshman Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) bombed so badly people felt sorry for him: "It's a little weird for me to be speaking at an event that's sponsored by the media. Although I come from a newspaper family, we seem to have a strained relationship with the press. 'Strained' is a polite term for 'troubled,' and 'the press' is a generous term for POLITICO. You know, it took everything I had not to refer to POLITICO as the WORST media outlet in the history. [Groans] It's not that I don't believe that assertion, but I don't want to get into hyperbole. [Dead silence; puzzled looks].
Yes, so Mike Allen scanned the room, saw "puzzled looks" (a possible reason for puzzlement: "Why is Ben Quayle doing comedy?") and with the keen insight into the human psyche that only Allen possesses, concluded that "people felt sorry for him." (Anyway, this is a "POLITICO EXCLUSIVE.")
If you really feel like you have to "respond" to a "joke" from a guy that was invited to tell jokes about you, follow the example of Ben Smith: just point at the scoreboard.
I'll leave you with the essential wisdom of @DCjourno:
The video that shows Quayle got a mixed response from the crowd is misleading. He bombed with all the relevant people.
Haters gonna hate, etc.
UPDATE: A dinner attendee who asks to be identified as "a senior member of the mainstream media" (awesome, why not?) writes in to say: "Ben Quayle did bomb and people felt sorry for him, BUT the Politico joke probably got his biggest laugh of the night. It was like his only successful joke." (For what it's worth, I actually liked, "Actually, Tim Pawlenty could win the general election and serve two consecutive terms before anyone noticed.")