Gridiron Grotesquerie

Why on earth did Bill Clinton feel he had to go to the Gridiron dinner this year? Chatterbox himself has a perfect attendance record–he’s never been–but has always recoiled from what he’s heard about the Washington lobbying and journalistic establishment’s annual talent show. It was at the Gridiron that Nancy Reagan famously shed her Marie Antoinette image with Washington reporters by singing “Second Hand Rose.” Never mind that the Marie Antoinette behavior continued unabated through two presidential terms (remember the Time story in 1988 about her getting to keep expensive gowns made by fancy designers?). The Gridiron is a monument to the idea that there’s no political behavior so awful that it can’t be forgiven and forgotten after a good self-deprecating joke. But after the last year, Chatterbox thinks a certain amount of lingering hostility between the Clinton administration and the press would be … well, healthy. Clinton deserves to be mad at the press because, even granting Flytrap was a legitimate and important story, it was permitted to swallow up too large a proportion of Washington news coverage. Hell, he even deserves to be mad at the press for telling the truth about what a liar and a creep he was. And while it’s not the press’s job actually to be mad at Clinton, its members should not be providing a forum for Clinton to make light of perjury. But that’s what it did: Unbelievably, Clinton joked at the dinner that he was going to title his memoirs, My Story and I’m Sticking to It. Hardy har har!

Chatterbox salutes Hillary Clinton for arranging to be out of the country while this grotesque pageant was going on. Apparently the only president to have stiffed the Gridiron in its 114-year history was Grover Cleveland. Chatterbox wishes Clinton had been the second. With any luck, a year of presidential non-attendance might have killed off this geriatric ritual for good.

–Timothy Noah