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The Gridiron's Betters, Skewered With a Butter Knife
Granted, some skits -- seen at rehearsal -- were pretty funny. Helen Thomas dressed up in green curtains, complete with long brass drapery rod across her back, as Scarlett O'Hara/Hillary Clinton. She sang: "All I want is a plantation, Big White House paid by taxation. A Hil'ry coronation, Oh, wouldn't it be loverly."
Tim Russert, making his first appearance as a new member, decked out in a blue dress and a shiny blond wig as one of the cable news bunnies. But there were also some true clunkers. Singing about torture, subbing "rendition" for "tradition" and borrowing the "Fiddler on the Roof" song was not funny at all. The chumminess of the politicos and the press corps can be cloying.
The evening began with an a cappella chorus and the Marine Corps Band. Celebrities in the audience included actor William Devane, who plays the secretary of defense on "24," Ron Silver from "The West Wing," former senator Fred Thompson, now on "Law & Order," and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
And Vice President Cheney, who was the butt of many jokes.
Obama told the formally attired crowd, "They're serving drinks and I'm about 30 yards from the vice president." Then he riffed a little on the Olympic Games and said of the biathlon: "Not your sport, Mr. Vice President."
The Gridiron Club, said Hall, is for those "who say there is only a grim and troubled solution to any problem. Laughter is the best balm for difficulty."
Asked if the experience was everything he thought it might be, Russert said, "It's the zenith. It's the pinnacle."
In the spirit of the evening, Bush said he told Cheney:
"Dick, I've got an approval rating of 38 percent and you shoot the only trial lawyer in the country who likes me.
"You know there are all these conspiracy theories that Dick runs the country . . . or Karl [Rove] runs the country. Why aren't there any conspiracy theories that I run the country? Really ticks me off. The truth is that I do run the country . . . but Dick runs me and Lynne runs Dick. So actually Lynne runs the country. And Lynne, I think you're doin' a heckuva job. Although I have to say you dropped the ball big time on that Dubai deal."
And: "By the way, when Dick first heard my approval rating was 38 percent, he said, 'What's your secret?' "
Staff writer DeNeen L. Brown contributed to this report.