After two years of snubbing Washington's snootiest journalism clan, the Gridiron Club, President Barack Obama has agreed to attend the group's annual dinner know for silly skits and songs performed by reporters and political celebrities. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
"Oh what a difference a bad election makes," says one Gridiron member. Another suggested that it was a sign that the administration's effort to make end-runs around the White House press corps is ending and the president is eager to improve relations with the news media.
In an E-mail to members, Gridiron President Susan Page, the well-known and influential USA Today reporter, revealed the unexpected decision. "Great news—President Obama will return to the warmth of the Gridiron. He has accepted the invitation to our dinner on March 12."
She noted that he is finally joining the tradition that presidents attend the dinner, the first of several annual journalism dinners. "This continues a long tradition: Every president since Grover Cleveland has addressed the Gridiron while in the White House. (Obama, then a senator, was a hit when he served as the Democratic speaker at the 2006 dinner.) As you know, we previously announced that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be the Democratic speaker; the name of the Republican speaker should follow shortly," she added. [See a gallery of political caricatures.]
The dinner is a must for influential Washingtonians and with Obama attending this year tickets will be hard to come by. We hear that the dinner plans to feature the usual assortment of funny skits and songs. Said Page: "Could this be the year a song by Jay Z makes it into the Gridiron Show?"
Typically presidents give amusing speeches and poke fun at staff and political opponents. The dinner is also considered a must stop by potential presidential candidates. At the winter dinner, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence was the Republican speaker. Pence is considering a bid for president or Indiana governor.
In a snub, Obama skipped the first white-tie dinner in 2009, taking his family instead to Camp David. Last year he was out of the country on a trip to Guam, Indonesia, and Australia. [See photos of Obama abroad.]