An April 1 Style article about the Gridiron Club dinner incorrectly quoted Cragg Hines of the Houston Chronicle as telling the audience, "Some would say we have had an expansion of the Gridiron in the last five years." The sentence should have ended "in the last two years," and the speaker was the club's secretary, George Condon. The article also misidentified Hines as the club's musical director; Hines is the music chairman, and Marine Lt. Col. Michael Colburn is the music director.
Stand-Up Comity, One Night Only
Sunday, April 1, 2007
Once again there was the usual air of palsy-walsyness between politicians and journalists at the annual Gridiron Club dinner Saturday night. These anachronistic affairs are like fairy tales told at bedtime, where serious news -- the Iraq war, global warming, perjury -- is mocked and put to music as entertainment.
The Gridiron is a dubious leftover from a time when journalists and politicians pummeled each other by day and partied together by night. We close our eyes and imagine the olden, pre-gotcha days before tell-all tabloids, cable news channels and cellphone cameras. Before fear of blogosphere and YouTube accountability. Before O'Reilly rants and "Hardball" harangues and before Watergate and the Scooter Libby trial lifted the rock to show the complex, squirmy relationship between politics and journalism.
It's one thing for comedians and satirists to turn political transgressions into punch lines. It's another for those of us charged with exposing those sins to make light of them. And for people who committed the sins to be guffawing at our jokes in the audience. How can reporters ask the tough questions -- about, yes, the Iraq war, global warming and perjury -- of politicians on Monday morning when we've been yukking it up together about those very same issues on Saturday night?
Asked if the apparent coziness between Gridiron members and newsmakers bothered him, club president Bill Neikirk of the Chicago Tribune said: "I don't know why it would feel too cozy. We're not sucking up to them."
He said that perhaps the event has improved relations between those who govern and those who report on them. When it was suggested that relations hadn't appeared to improve since 1885, when the club was founded, he said, "Perhaps the Gridiron is not the grand force we think it is, but we just continue to go on."
He added: "It's a grand Washington tradition."
Sure enough at the Renaissance Washington Hotel last night, members of the Gridiron Club, gathered for the white-tie event to laugh at the world and themselves. It was 1954 all over again.
The president, who usually attends, was hosting Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at Camp David. Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, showed up as White House representatives. In his end-of-the-evening speech, Cheney referred to recent reports that the home of former vice president Al Gore uses more than the average amount of energy. "Many argue that global warming is man-made," Cheney said, "and it looks like they found the man."
Other guests included various Cabinet members, Chief Justice John Roberts, members of Congress, governors and Mayors Adrian Fenty of Washington and Michael Bloomberg of New York.
Some of the more surreal moments from the show:
· Columnist Robert Novak in a Darth Vader costume pretending to be Vice President Cheney singing "It's Not Easy Being Mean." He warbled, "If Scooter lied to make us free, it could make you wonder why."