Stars and Pundits

by Editorial

New Orleans Revisted
Although hometown gal Taraji P. Henson didn’t get an Oscar for best-supporting actress for her role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, she has a hearty group of fans here in Washington. Paramount Pictures threw a bash honoring her at Arcadia a few weeks before the Academy Awards. Host Donna Brazile also said the party celebrated the “re-birth” of another of the film’s stars, the city of New Orleans. “I had to watch it over two nights because it was quite emotional,” Brazile said. “The first night I had to get a little glass of Chardonnay. The second night I got through it.” One of the most startling things about “Button,” she added, was watching her friend Taraji, who plays the role of Queenie. “If I looked as good as you did at 71,” she told the actress, “I wouldn’t mind aging.” Henson said she had filmed in New Orleans twice since Hurricane Katrina. “I went with a calling to bring back hope to the people of a city that was dying … Feeling their love meant more to me than the Oscars.”

By The Numbers
Just as USA Today reporter Donna Leinwand was being installed as the 102nd president of the National Press Club at an inaugural gala on January 31, Iraqi citizens were getting inked as they voted in provincial elections under heavy security. While only a handful of the NPC’s 3,500 members ran for office, the Iraqis were dealing with more than 14,000 candidates competing for 440 seats in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Got that? Iraqi ambassador Samir Sumaida’ie explained it this way: “It’s possible because there’s a lot of enthusiasm and a will to participate. The elections closed peacefully and happily, and we are delighted with that.” Adding humor to the internationally-themed event was political satirist Mark Russell, who can always be counted upon to put things in perspective. “I just hired a new tax advisory firm, Geithner & Daschle,” Russell quipped. “Geithner owes $40,000 in taxes and Daschle $120,000 – which makes Daschle three times as qualified to be in the Cabinet.” In her closing remarks, Leinwand reminded us that in hard times like these for print journalism, there is nothing more essential or fundamental to the business than a good party!

There She Goes
The stimulus package was an easy target as the Fourth Estate and members of Congress traded barbs once again at the Washington Press Club Foundation Congressional Dinner. “You know times are hard,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi joked, “when Timothy Geithner gets a call from the New York Times and he doesn’t know if it’s for a story or a bailout.” Rep. Kevin McCarthy also got a laugh when he noted that “Turbo Tax bought a table tonight to promote the new Obama Cabinet, Version 9.0. It asks if you’ve been nominated for a Cabinet position. If you check ‘yes,’ the software just skips right through and calculates your refund.” Other speakers included Sens. Mitch McConnell and Amy Klobuchar and CNN’s Candy Crowley.

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