For weeks, there's been speculation about whether or not Donald Trump would attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner. The dinner is a chance for presidents to poke fun at the press and to show off their lighter side as they take some ribbing of their own. It was never going to be a comfortable fit for the notoriously thin-skinned Trump and his war on the First Amendment.
So he's passing:
Let's be blunt, though: Regardless of what story Trump's people whip up to explain his absence, the bottom line is that Trump is simply afraid. Partly he's afraid of not stacking up well against Obama, who was funny and eloquent as hell, but mostly, Trump is afraid of the press. Deeply afraid.
This is a man who only feels in control when he's belittling others. His bizarre handshake is meant to dominate the other person by pulling them off balance. His rallies are exercises in publicly humiliating his enemies. His tweets are more often than not an insult. His demeaning nicknames are the taunts of a schoolyard bully.
Now, put him in a room filled with some of the smartest people in Washington, none of whom have any loyalty to him and many of whom actively dislike him, and you have the makings of Trump's worst nightmare. In a battle of wits, he's badly outmatched. Trying to make clever jokes about the press is difficult when you're not clever. Even the funniest punchlines written by other people fall flat when you're incapable of delivering them without the rancor that oozes from Trump every second of every day. And unlike his rallies and press conferences, he can't pack the room with a cheering squad to boost his ego.
The only way Trump would even consider attending would be if he could control the guest list and personally pick the emcee (Sean Hannity, perhaps?). Without that, Trump risks being made to look weak, something he fears more than anything else. At least by avoiding the dinner, he can point to the inevitable jokes about him as being more proof that the press is the "enemy of the state."
The last president to skip the WHCD was Reagan because he'd just been shot and even he called in to make a joke about ducking. Before that, it was Richard Nixon, the only president to loathe the press as much as Trump and for much the same reason. Trump may try to use his boycott of the dinner as a show of dominance but all he's done is make himself look weaker and more petulant than ever.