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Swine Flu Doesn't Stop Lovey-Dovey Fun In Washington

The Week magazine's Opinion Awards dinner last night was dedicated to bipartisanship, comity and loving one another among the Washington elite. But Sally Quinn was having none of it.

"No kissing tonight," the doyenne of Washington's high society declared.

Not with the threat of swine flu engulfing the Western Hemisphere.

Quinn air kissed her way through the cocktail reception and dinner, save for a few dreadfully inconsiderate souls who she said "forced themselves" on her.

"I'll start using Purell," Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) later told us, opting - at all risk - to continue the tradition of social cheek kissing.

White House counsel Greg Craig also threw caution to the wind at the table he shared with new car czar (sort-of) Steve Rattner. Craig planted what appeared to be a kiss smack dab on the lips of Debbie Dingell, the omnipresent Democratic strategist, General Motors executive and wife of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Wiretap), who sat one table away from Craig, did a little cheek kissing of her own as various folks stopped by her table, no doubt to show support for her quest to have transcripts of her secretly recorded conversations with a suspected Israeli agent made public.

Members of last night's panel discussion were divided over President Obama's romantic vision of bipartisanship, which he had promised would be central to his presidency.

"Bipartisanship is like pornography: you know it when you see it," exclaimed Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who often courts compromises from his colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

"I don't think we should sit around and play lovey-dovey," snarled an otherwise unsnarly Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman turned MSNBC talk show host, dumping bipartisanship on its face.

Before the panel discussion began, the vibe in the banquet room at the St. Regis hotel where the awards dinner was held was very lovey-dovey. So much so that White House senior adviser David Axelrod presented The Week's "columnist of the year" award to David Brooks, the New York Times' right-leaning columnist.

Axelrod recalled how, once upon a time, when he was a young reporter at the Chicago Tribune and Brooks was an even younger scribe at the City News Bureau in Chicago, Brooks often said he aspired to be Axelrod.

"He way overshot the runway," Axelrod swooned of his former protégé.

"I did want to be David Axelrod," conceded Brooks, as he accepted the award from his former idol.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) put her love on hold for a night. She and her husband marked their seventh wedding anniversary yesterday but, this being Washington, they decided to attend the big dinner (which, by the way, was sponsored by Chevron on the very week Congress explores serious allegations of pollution against the oil company) and postpone their celebration until tonight.

Besides Brooks, The Week - which is trying to emerge a juggernaut out of the ashes of a crumbling news industry - presented awards to syndicated political cartoonist Mike Luckovich (cartoonist of the year) and Nate Silver of (blogger of the year).

The magazine's event last night was almost a mini version of the upcoming annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, which, incidentally, Sally Quinn is threatening to boycott on account of her newfound fear.

"There'll be 3,000 people there, we'll all get the swine flu," she deadpanned as she and her husband, legendary former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, left to go home.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  April 28, 2009; 6:05 AM ET
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I was nine years old when we had the last outbreak of swine flu. At that time there was a government inoculation program that 40 million Americans participated in. The swine flu ended up killing one person,that's right ONE person, while the vaccine killed 25. I am getting really tired with every new virus causing such an overreaction in the media. What happened with SARS,avian flu and all the other scares that were shoved down out throats? NOTHING! When an if there is a serious virus that comes along it will hit us like a ton of bricks, this swine flu is not that virus.

Posted by: JamesGreen1 | April 28, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

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