WASHINGTON--GOP White House candidate Mitt Romney and Democratic House caucus chair Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) are the speakers at the annual Gridiron Club dinner this Saturday night.
The headline speakers usually use the opportunity to demonstrate edgy wit topped with a dose of self-deprecating humor. If he takes that route, Emanuel will have an abundance of material.
Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama (D-Ill.) spoke at the dinner last year, paired with Lynne Cheney (story I wrote is below, along with Obama's best lines.) Romney and Obama were the marquee draws in the Gridiron's 2004 winter dinner, where Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, demonstrated that he's got some pipes.
here's the Obama story...
March 13, 2006 Monday
SECTION: NEWS; Lynn Sweet; Pg. 28
LENGTH: 586 words
HEADLINE: Obama in prime form at Gridiron Club roast
BYLINE: Lynn Sweet, Special to The Chicago Sun-Times
"And most of all, I want to thank you for all the generous advance coverage you've given me in anticipation of a successful career. When I actually do something, we'll let you know.''
-- Closing lines of Sen. Barack Obama's remarks at the Gridiron Club's annual dinner Saturday night.
It's a given in political humor that self-deprecating jokes are the best.
On Saturday night, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) cleverly wielded self-effacing humor -- punctuated with a ditty he sang with a velvet voice -- at the annual Gridiron Club dinner. To find out whether he had sex with his wife, Michelle, before his speech, well, you'll have to read my blog at www.suntimes.com.
Besides aiming barbs at himself, Obama, in the spirit of the Gridiron tradition to "singe, not burn" the politicians who attend the white tie affair, took shots at President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Freshman Obama was perfectly willing, indeed eager, to confront how preposterous his swelling fame is, given that, well, to paraphrase the man himself, he actually has yet to accomplish much in Congress.
'INCREDIBLE 18 MONTHS'
The well-received big-stakes speech -- CBS anchor Bob Schieffer said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, where Obama guested, that Obama was the "absolute star" of the show -- was mostly crafted by David Axelrod, Obama's Chicago-based media consultant.
Obama made use of his recent dust-up over ethics reform with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) with a precious parody of "If I Only Had a Brain" from "The Wizard of Oz," where the refrain was, "If I only had McCain.'' It was written by a presumed moonlighting Chicago Board of Education spokesman, Peter Cunningham. Helping to spike the brew was a former Clinton speechwriter, Jeff Nussbaum.
"This appearance is really the capstone of an incredible 18 months," Obama said.
"I've been very blessed. Keynote speaker at the Democratic Convention. The cover of Newsweek. My book made the best-seller list. I just won a Grammy for reading it on tape.
"And I've had the chance to speak not once but twice before the Gridiron Club. Really, what else is there to do? Well, I guess . . . I could pass a law, or something. . . .
"About that book: Some folks thought it was a little presumptuous to write an autobiography at the age of 33, but people seemed to like it. So now I'm working on volume two -- The Senate Months. My Remarkable Journey from 99th in Seniority to 98th."
'LIKE DOING A JOKE ON THE POPE'
Obama applauded Bush for attending the dinner, where club members -- a group of Washington journalists and some ringers who can sing -- stick it to political newsmakers in parodies to familiar tunes.
"I mean, wow, it really has been a rough period for you, Mr. President. I missed the Oscars, so when I picked up the paper the next morning and saw 'Crash' in the headlines, I just assumed it was another Bush poll story."
Cheney's accidental shooting of a hunting companion was grist for Obama, Cheney's wife, Lynne, who represented the Republicans, as well as the president.
"The truth is, I'm terrified to be here," said Obama, setting up his Cheney joke. "Not because you're such a tough audience, but because they are serving drinks, and I'm standing about 30 yards from the vice president."
Bush anticipated that it would be difficult to one-up the popular Obama.
"Senator Obama, I wanted to do a joke on you," Bush said, "but it's like doing a joke on the pope."
Complained Bush, ". . . Give me some material to work with here. You know, mispronounce something."