There were several crucial questions surrounding Saturday night's Gridiron dinner, that exclusive, annual white-tie gathering hosted by a club made up of Washington's most elite journalists: first of all, would President Donald Trump turn up?
The answer to that one came early in the evening – nope, the president wouldn't attend, as he did last year, and instead, his daughter and top White House adviser, Ivanka Trump, gave remarks.
And so the younger Trump appeared at the Renaissance Washington Hotel before a crowd of about 700 of the city's swampiest of swamp-dwellers, offering up a few remarks in the spirit of the night, which traditionally features jokey remarks from the president (when he's in attendance – POTUSes since William McKinley have joined in on the 134 year-old tradition), a prominent Democrat and Republican and a slew of skits by the Fourth Estate.
Ivanka Trump, who said her father had asked her just that afternoon to represent him, got off a cringey laugh with a line that poked fun at her conservative bona fides – and her notoriously difficult boss/dad. "The press seems to think it's ironic that I, born of great privilege, think people want to work for what they are given," she deadpanned. "As if being Donald Trump's daughter isn't the hardest job in the world."
Another question lingering in the rarefied air was would Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who was one of the evening's headliners, be able to joke about all those headlines of late about her reportedly bad-boss ways?
Klobuchar got laughs with her opening line inquiring how everyone had enjoyed their salad, a sideways reference to reports that she had once berated an aide for not bringing her utensils with which to eat her lunch, forcing her to eat a salad with a hair comb. The Minnesota Dem said she thought the meal needed "a little scalp oil and a pinch of dandruff."
And the 2020 Democratic hopeful got off a few digs at potential competitors and cautionary tales. ″In the end, how can I lose?" she asked. "My campaign will combine the short peppy speeches of Joe Biden, the common touch of Mike Bloomberg, the collegiality of Ted Cruz and the chipper upbeat personality of Bernie Sanders."
OK, one more unknown reverberating around the hotel ballroom on Saturday night: Can't we all just get along? Could a group of reporters mingle with their sources in an era where the Big Boss routinely derides them as fake news and an enemy of the American people? (And should they? The dinner, much like the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, has its detractors who think it's unseemly for members of the media to cozy up to the folks they cover.)
A decided "yes" to that one, as top members of the media mixed comfortably with Trump administration types, including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Sarah Sanders, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Neilsen. Throw in a plenty of congress-critters, ambassadors and a governor or two to boot, and this was a bona fide party.
So it seemed that the only unanswered query remaining was posited in the evening's first sketch (yes, there's a hokey song-and-dance program in which some of the 65-member club perform songs riffing on headlines of the day).
That came in the lyrics of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, adapted for the Trump administration's mercurial and surreal vibe: "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?" the song went. "Caught in a bad dream, no escape from Sean Hannity. Don't miss that tweet, it's our new foreign policy."
Real life? Fantasy? Who can tell the difference?
The Washington Post
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