March 16, 2009

In But Not Of

The best White House memoir I've every read wasn't by a President or a Chief of Staff or a senior aid but the one written by the joke guy. Mark Katz spent the Clinton years writing the President's humor speeches and wrote an absolutely great book about it. Not only was it a great read, Clinton and Me gives great insight into the Washington Humor circuit and the President's role in it.

So it is with great interest to read about President Obama's decision to skip this year's Gridiron Club dinner. Of the four major humor speeches on each year's agenda, the Gridiron is by far the most insider. It's not televised like the White House correspondence dinner. The attendees wear ridiculous white tie and tail get-ups. When Digby rips the insider Establishment of the Washington "Village" things like the Gridiron Club are what she's talking about. The Gridiron is secret, elitist in the worse sense, and conservative in the "don't change anything" way that tries to kill every Presidential agenda. So when Obama skips this dinner, he's sending a message. He's shaking up the institutions that need shaking up. He's in Washington, but he's not of Washington. He works there, but he lives out here. This President has twenty four hours in a day, but faces a host of problems, every one of which make my teeth hurt just to think about. He can't wast a moment, even when he's telling jokes. Or in this case, not telling jokes.

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