A guide to the Gridiron speech
The first time I was invited to the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, I protested against the tails. I don't wear tails. And I dreaded what I assumed would be a self-indulgent celebration of an age of bonhomie that got out of town the day Fanny Foxe jumped into the Tidal Basin. But the night was actually kind of fun. President Obama has twice addressed the Gridiron; there is also a designated Republican and Democratic speech-maker. They hire professional comedians and speechwriters to help them craft their remarks, so they tend to be pretty funny. To an outsider, though, they can be opaque. So, thanks to the White House transcription, I can provide some context for the president's light-hearted jibing at the press corps. Like most speeches of this kind, the structure of similar. You make fun of yourself; you make fun of your opponents; you make fun of your party, and then you end with a heartfelt tribute to journalists.
Self-joke: the President oversold the immediate effects of the sequester.
The dinner is LONG. Like, hours long, And you're in tails, seated at tiny tables.
We noticed that some folks couldn't make it this evening. It's been noted that Bob Woodward sends his regrets, which Gene Sperling predicted. (Laughter.) I have to admit this whole brouhaha had me a little surprised. Who knew Gene could be so intimidating? (Laughter.) Or let me phrase it differently — who knew anybody named Gene could be this intimidating? (Laughter.)
Refers, of course, to the "threatening" email that Sperling, the White House's top economic adviser, sent to Woodward, which everyone but Woodward interpreted as a nice and friendly email.
The President's Counter Assault Team (HAWKEYE Renegade) has plenty of firepower and travels with him whenever he leaves the White House.
This is a sensitive issue for the press corps. On the one hand, they complain, rightfully, about being ignored by the president. But if the White House doesn't need them anymore, then why bother to waste the president's time? And there's been plenty of outside criticism of the press corps for not asking the right type of questions when they DO get to talk to the president.
Ed Henry is the President of the White House Correspondents Association.
It was a cell phone video leaked to Corn that unveiled Romney's "47%" remark.
Now I'm sure that you've noticed that there's somebody very special in my life who is missing tonight, somebody who has always got my back, stands with me no matter what and gives me hope no matter how dark things seem. So tonight, I want to publicly thank my rock, my foundation — thank you, Nate Silver. (Laughter.)
Actually, that joke is a few months too late. Silver, of course, was the election prognosticator who got it right.
The president very smoothly took a sip of water in the middle of that sentence.
A reference to conservative radio folks who say the President does nothing but play golf and watch ESPN.
Maureen Dowd's name is always good for a chuckle. And she does indeed refer to Obama's clinical nature as Spock-like. Obama and Co. did find it ridiculous but amusing that the press picked up so quickly on his mixed sci-fi metaphor.
I'm also doing what I can to smooth things over with Republicans in Congress. In fact, these days John McCain and I are spending so much time together that he told me we were becoming friends. I said, "John, stop. Chuck Hagel warned me how this ends up." (Laughter.)
McCain and Hagel were once close friends...
Ouch! Even the president thought Hagel didn't do well in his confirmation hearings. And the reference to the presidential debate advisers is obvious.
Favs is moving to Hollywood. And he really is like a son to Obama. And Favs helped coin Obama's original catch-phrase, "Yes, we can!"
Jack Lew is getting started on his new role as Treasury Secretary. Jack is so low key, he makes Tim Geithner look like Tom Cruise. (Laughter.) Don't worry, everybody, Jack signed off on that joke or a five year old drew a slinky. (Laughter.) I don't know which. (Applause.)
Another big change has been at the State Department. Everybody has noticed that obviously. And let's face it — Hillary is a tough act to follow. But John Kerry is doing great so far. He is doing everything he can to ensure continuity. Frankly, though, I think it's time for him to stop showing up at work in pantsuits. (Laughter.) It's a disturbing image. (Laughter.) It really is. (Laughter.) I don't know where he buys them. He is a tall guy. (Laughter.)
And even though I'm just beginning my second term, I know that some folks are looking ahead to bigger things. Look, it's no secret that my Vice President is still ambitious. But let's face it, his age is an issue. Just the other day, I had to take Joe aside and say, "Joe, you are way too young to be the pope." (Laughter.) "You can't do it. You got to mature a little bit." (Laughter.)
Biden, of course, is thinking about a presidential run.
And here is the serious part:
In an age when all it takes to attract attention is a Twitter handle and some followers, it's easier than ever to get it wrong. But it's more important than ever to get it right. And I am grateful for all the journalists who do one of the toughest jobs there is with integrity and insight and dedication — and a sense of purpose — that goes beyond a business model or a news cycle.
This year alone, reporters have exposed corruption here at home and around the world. They've risked everything to bring us stories from places like Syria and Kenya, stories that need to be told. And they've helped people understand the ways in which we're all connected — how something that happens or doesn't happen halfway around the world or here in Washington can have consequences for American families.
These are extraordinary times. The stakes are high and the tensions can sometimes be high as well. But while we'll always have disagreements, I believe that we share the belief that a free press — a press that questions us, that holds us accountable, that sometimes gets under our skin — is absolutely an essential part of our democracy.
So I want to thank everybody for not just a wonderful evening — and, Chuck, I want to thank you for your outstanding presidency — but I also just want to thank you for the work that you do each and every day. And in the words of one of my favorite Star Trek characters — Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise — "May the force be with you." (Laughter and applause.)
Other stories from this section:
- 3 things Republicans will change so they can win again
- Where the GOP goes on gay marriage
- How Republicans hurt more than just their own party by acting irrationally