Reliable Source: Obama gets laughs at first Gridiron Club dinner as president

By The Reliable Source
Sunday, March 13, 2011; 8:01 AM

It took three attempts, but the Gridiron Club -- a vestige of swampland-era Washington -- finally got President Obama to show up for their annual dinner Saturday night. And yet what did they get? No respect, we tell you -- no respect!

How exciting, the president told the 650 guests at the downtown Renaissance Hotel, to be meeting at a time when great change is sweeping the world and driving out the old regimes.

Pause. "Look out, Gridiron Club."

By that point, though, Obama had already been serenaded by a gang of Gridiron members, impersonating the GOP House leadership while dressed as Hell's Angels, about how they're "gonna block Barack around the clock," to the tune of the old Bill Haley song.

We're gonna move Obama to the right

We're gonna mock mock mock his election fight

We're gonna talk, gonna talk, and then we might indict!

Yes, America, it's one of those Washington dinners: Where top politicians and media elite dress up in their finest -- white tie, in this case -- to eat, drink and lob passive-aggressive jokes at each other, celebrity roast-style, in a way that seems pointed and mean but only serves to feed the beyond-the-Beltway suspicion that They Are All In Bed Together.

Case in point: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels joking that he got his duds from "the bearded guy at Men's Wearhouse. Anyone else notice, you never see him and Wolf Blitzer in the same place at the same time?" Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Mitt Romney: "We have more in common than our hairstyles: We both used to think health care reform would advance our careers." Al Hunt of Bloomberg feigning surprise that the absent Sen. Chuck Schumer would miss a chance to schmooze reporters: "It's like Charlie Sheen missing a hooker's convention."

Only among friends, right? They kid because they love. Right?

In the D.C.-as-high-school metaphor, where the 3,000-person White House Correspondents' Association spring dinner is fondly known as "prom," Gridiron is something like the Student Council Follies. The 126-year-old group is a relatively exclusive cadre of the Washington press corps -- only 65 active members, most of them well over 50 - whose preferred method of entertainment in 2011 remains Broadway-style current-events song parodies.

But we confess: Some if it is kinda good. Worthy of a 12:52 a.m. slot on "Saturday Night Live," even, with same cheerful, did-we-dream-that surreal humor. In the Act 2 finale, "Karl Rove" dressed as a mad scientist sang to the Johnny Cash tune, "I've Been Everywhere": I've seen every one, man .../ They all wanna run, man / Egos by the ton, man ... (Rove was played by the Marine Band's Kevin Bennear -- like many of Gridiron's best voices, not a full member but a ringer enlisted for the occasion.)

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