The Situation and the Story: Press Corps Parties While White House Makes History

At 10:22 p.m. Seth Myers was well into his routine for the evening. “People think bin Laden is hiding in the Hindu Kush,” said Myers, “but did you know that every day from 4 to 5 he hosts a show on C-SPAN?” The president laughed heartily. Myers later noted: “I am, of course, contractually obligated to attend the MSNBC party. Everyone knows how the MSNBC party works: President Obama mixes the Kool-Aid, and everyone drinks it.”

An hour later, The Observer was at the Italian embassy for the MSNBC party, where Rachel Maddow mixed drinks and tended bar below a sign that glows in cursive, pink-neon lettering: RACHEL’S BAR.” The Observer asked her if she thought the dinner was a little too cozy. “I don’t go to the dinner, I just go to this,” she said. “What are you asking me is too cozy? That thing that I didn’t go to that I don’t know anything about? You should ask me about something else. I didn’t go!”

The Observer asked MSNBC president Phil Griffin how the evening was going for him: “It gets better because, you know, we’re making a statement,” he said. “An event like this, we’re letting everybody know, we’re here. We’re in Washington, a place for politics, we should be celebrated on a night like tonight. It’s a night to let all the issues be put aside for one moment to step aside and enjoy yourself. O.K.?”

Eliot Spitzer entered the party. “I thought journalists weren’t working tonight,” he told The Observer.

At 1 a.m., Cee-Lo took the stage. The Observer squeezed its way over to Sarah Palin, holding court with the largest crowd at the party. Sean Penn was sitting across the room at a table with four other people, including REM’s Michael Stipe. Ms. Palin, for her part, was vocal about the role of the press in such proximity to the president. “Well, I still would like the White House Press Corps to ask our president a bit tougher questions about where he really wants to go with this economy and does he understand and believe in free markets or does he really believe in government’s ability to plan our economy for us? So I want the press corps to ask those questions!”