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Obama Meets the Press—for Dinner

7:50 PM, Mar 9, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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President Obama is meeting the press tonight in Washington, D.C. He'll be having dinner tonight at the Gridiron Club, an organization of journalists, at a downtown hotel.

But only one print pool reporter will be allowed to cover the event, which is supposed to be humorous and in good fun. And a camera crew was once again not allowed to cover the event.

Here's the first print pool report of the evening:

The motorcade departed from the South Lawn at 6:51 p.m. and arrived at the Renaissance Washington Hotel four minutes later. There were no sightings of the president, who is speaking at the 128th annual Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner this evening. 

Of note, this is the first time a president’s Gridiron remarks will be pooled. Print pool only and only of the president’s remarks. The WH will also send a transcript tonight. I’m told to expect the president’s remarks to begin in the 10 o’clock hour. ...

Pool will hold at the Renaissance until the president’s remarks begin.

FROM the GRIDIRON CLUB and FOUNDATION:

President Barack Obama, political leaders, media executives and journalists sequestered themselves Saturday for a night of bipartisan satire at the 128th  annual Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner. 

The president headlined the white-tie event at the Renaissance Washington Hotel and was preceded to the Gridiron podium by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, representing the Democrats, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, speaking for the Republicans.

Gridiron President Charles J. Lewis of Hearst Newspapers started off the evening of musical skits skewering Washington for its budget impasses, political infighting, gun-rights battles and sex scandals.

Thanking President Obama for joining the dinner, Lewis noted the Gridiron had promised to keep the evening short, “especially because Gene Sperling said that a late night is something we’d all regret.”

“He told us that as a friend,” Lewis quipped.

Lewis noted that Obama’s State of the Union addressed called for increased taxes, more infrastructure spending and a new federal pre-kindergarten program.

“It looks to me like the era of big government being over, is now over,” Lewis said.

The head of the Gridiron also noted that he welcomed the president to a dinner of journalists even though his White House may not be the most press friendly.

“As we were walking in, I thought I heard [the president] say, ‘So many newspaper reporters. So many interviews to turn down,’” Lewis said.

Following Lewis’ comments, Gridiron Club members performed skits lampooning Republicans and Democrats.

The Republican skit poked fun at the party’s internal strife over losing the presidency, its attempt to get over the Mitt Romney moment and its allegiance to the National Rifle Association.

A cast member portrayed House Speaker John Boehner singing to the tune of Les Miserables’ “Master of the House,” followed quickly by a House Majority Leader Eric Cantor impersonator singing, “I’m in the mood:”

I’m in the mood for blood, simply because you’re near me;

Funny, John, when you’re near me, I’m in the mood for blood;

Treason is in my heart, I am ready to plunder

Oh, is it any wonder: You’re ready for a shove.

Gridiron members also noted the affinity of the GOP for the Second Amendment with a parody of the Temptations’ “My Girl:”

If you hate the NRA

Tell my Walther PPK

You’re flirting with disaster

With my Bushmaster

And when pigs fly away

You can take me away 

 

From my gun

For the Democratic skit, the performers noted the possibility of a 2016 bid by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden’s “big effen” role in the White House and the surge of women on the Hill. Cast members also wined aloud about their lack of access to Obama with a satirical play on Pete Townsend’s Pinball Wizard: 

Who knew when his magic

First had us all transfixed

That this politician

Hated politics?

Loves his TelePrompTer, loves a White House ball

But mighty Obama

Don’t schmooze with us at all.

And just a week after Congress let automatic spending cuts go into effect, the Gridiron members noted, in Washington speak, the process that brought it about:

You’d think a sound solution here would be a real no-brainer

They play a game of chicken just to see who’s more insane-er

The culprits, their identities could not be plainer

Nancy, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid and Speaker Boehner

Oh, mandatory legislative budget sequestration.

The 650 dinner guests included several Cabinet members, top military officials, senior White House advisers, three governors, four senators, four House members and 10 ambassadors. Media stars at the show included PBS’s Jim Lehrer, C-SPAN’s Susan Swain, Meet the Press host David Gregory, ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

Head table guests included the president and featured speakers as well as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and the director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper.

The Gridiron Club and Foundation is a 501(c) 3 charitable organization that provides contributions annually for college scholarships and journalistic organizations. Active membership is limited to 65 Washington-based journalists. Two new active members were introduced at the dinner: Thomas Burr of The Salt Lake Tribune and Sally Buzbee of The Associated Press.

John Mulligan, formerly of the Providence (R.I.) Journal, served as music chairman for the show. ABC News’ Robin Sproul produced the Republican skit while Stephen Koff of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer produced the Democratic skit. The opener was produced by Chuck Raasch of USA Today and the closing songs by Chris Casteel of The Oklahoman.

The club’s music director is Col. Michael Colburn, director of the United States Marine Band; he was aided by the band’s assistant director, Maj. Jason Fettig, accompanist John Fluck and the musicians of Sidney’s Orchestra.

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