Dem Lynch Mob Might Hang President’s Hopes - 07-16-09
A Varied Menu For You To Consider - 06-25-09
Notre Dame And Obama
Offer A Splendid Lesson - 05-21-09
Upsets Even Liberals - 03-26-09
‘Adults In Wonderland’
Need To Get Real - 01-15-09
This Time It’s Indians
Who Break The Treaty - 12-18-08
Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
One Reader Thinks So - 12-11-08
Top Athletes Should
Know When to Quit? - 7-24-08
Omaha Stars Again
On National TV Stage - 7-02-08
Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
Three Bad Calls" - 10-26-07
"Right Decision Could
Help Both Fair, UNL" - 10-12-07
"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
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March 12, 2008
President Bush, probably as roughly treated by the news media as any president within recent memory, was nevertheless a surprise star of the 123 rd annual Washington dinner of the Gridiron Club, many of whose news media members were responsible for some of that rough treatment.
Bush and “the Busheroos” provided a surprise ending to the annual white tie, tough-ticket dinner sponsored by the 65 news media members of the Gridiron Club.
With the banquet hall darkened and spotlights focused on the stage where a skit was being performed, Bush had slipped quietly away from the head table in preparation for appearing unexpectedly on stage to perform, along with five accompanying country-style musicians (each one a member of the armed forces) as “George W. Bush and the Busheroos.” To the tune of “The Green, Green Grass of Home,” Bush sang:
“You’re going to miss me, the way you used to quiz me, ‘cause soon I’ll touch the brown, brown grass of home.”
The presidential performance was greeted with a rousing, clapping, whistling ovation.
After what he described as “the first and last performance” of Bush and the Busheroos, the president told the assembled news media members that “when you’re not writing stories, you’re not half-bad.” Then he turned serious with these words: “You can’t have democracy without a free press. On behalf of our country, on behalf of democracy, let me thank you for the work you do. God bless.”
During some 40 years of attending Gridiron Club dinners, I had seen and heard Richard Nixon playing the piano, Bill Clinton playing the saxophone and Nancy Reagan, known for her high-style taste, sing about “second-hand clothes from Second-Hand Rose.” Her stage attire was appropriate to the lyrics.
The Nixon, Clinton and Nancy Reagan appearances certainly highlighted previous dinners, but I thought that Bush’s surprise appearance was perhaps the most impressive, considering especially his “thank you for the work you do” message for the assemblage of journalists, some of whom have been among his toughst critics.
The presidential candidates still standing, to use a prize-fighting term, were not in the crowd, perhaps wisely so, I believe, especially in view of the fact that the Obama/Clinton competition has become so bitter.
But much of the humor, of course, involved the remaining candidates as well as some who have dropped out of the competition. One example: Of Rudy Giuliani, who decisively lost his gamble that victory in Florida would be the springboard for success, one of the speaker’s cracked: “Like many other New Yorkers, Rudy Giuliani went to Florida to die.”
Another performer indicated that Hillary Clinton fully intended to continue using husband Bill in her campaign—by sending him to speak for her in Guam.
In one skit, a reference to the two remaining Democratic candidates was phrased like this: “A New York senator born in Illinois and an Illinois senator born in a manger.”
To the tune of “Try To Remember,” a chorus of journalists took note of the fact that last autumn journalists pretty generally had written off Barack Obama and John McCain as serious contenders for nomination. Now, the journalists sang, “We’re sorry, we’re sorry, we’re sorry.”
One of the performers pointed out that among several contenders for the Republican nomination, divorces were more common than once-in-a-lifetime marriages. One candidate who had only one wife: a Mormon, Mitt Romney.
As one who claims to have discovered that frequent office-seekers suffer from a virus which I have named “politicus incurabilis,” I was pleased to hear one skit end with the acknowledgement that some journalists suffer from a virus which sounded to me like “journalistis liberalis insufferabillis.”
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, designated speaker for the Republican Party, described what she suggested was a reflection of the difference between Washington and Texas: In Washington, she said, on the zoo cage you read the species of the animal and the species as more specifically described in Latin. In Texas, she said, the zoo offers the species of the animal “and the recipe.”
Senator Hutchinson also said this in indirect reference to the age of Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain, who is 72: “They say the presidency ages a man. Why not elect a president who has a head start?”
I’m not at all sure that Senator McCain would appreciate this bit of humor from a fellow Republican senator.
There was no reference in the show itself to a hot new topic, a possibility floated by Senator Clinton; i.e., if she prevails as the Democratic nominee, might Obama be persuaded to join her as her vice presidential running mate. The consensus among all the people I talked to: No way.
Another possibility being discussed by a small group in which I was a participant: If the Democratic convention in Denver deadlocks, with neither Clinton nor Obama able to win a majority, the party turns to Al Gore.
My contribution to the discussion: “If Gore becomes the nominee, the average temperature worldwide will fall at least two degrees the next day.”
(Marian and I were guests of Mary Kay Quinlan, associate professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Mary Kay retained her tie to the Gridiron Club on returning to Nebraska after 22 years in Washington where she worked for The World-Herald Washington Bureau and the Gannett News Service and served a term as president of the National Press Club. She was assistant floor manager for last Saturday’s Gridiron Club Show.)
* * *
A recent story about Nebraska governor’s mansion and its lack of architectural distinction brought to mind a conversation I had more than a half century ago. I was talking with then-Governor Bob Crosby, a North Platte attorney (later a Lincoln attorney until his death in 2000). Bob was governor in 1953-55. I was The World-Herald Lincoln correspondent at the time.
Bob (who once with a smile introduced me as a good friend even though I asked him tough questions about his budget) told me that he and wife Betty wanted to entertain the Statehouse press corps in the governor’s mansion. The mansion then was an impressive white wooden structure, big enough and impressive enough to be accurately described as a “mansion” of that era. It stood on the same block as is occupied by the present big but unattractive (to me at least) brick mansion.
Bob asked me if I thought that, considering that there then was a state law against serving liquor on state property, if it would still be acceptable to serve liquor at a party for the Statehouse press.
“You’d better serve liquor if you want any of the press to come” was my reply, as best I can recall.
The governor and Mrs. Crosby served liquor at the Statehouse press corps party.
As to the so-called “new” governor’s mansion, which is actually 51 years old: I remember walking into the new mansion for the first time, being ushered into the large, unattractive reception room and asking, “Where’s the body?”
* * *
Please allow me to share with you a couple of my current peeves.
I recognize I have an unfair advantage on you in that I can share my peeves with a wider audience. Suggestion: If what I write today inspires you to do so, I would be pleased to receive a report as to your current pet peeve. I can’t guarantee that every response will be published, but I’ll be pleased to hear from you and give consideration to including your message in a future column.
Those two current peeves:
The perpetual wailing about the level of Nebraska taxes, based on the assertion that everyone knows they are too high and the Legislature has to do something about them.
But tell us what services currently financed with state funds - - or with local tax funds - - would these wailers dispense with or reduce enough to make a significant reduction in the tax burden?
I weary, too, of reading headline after headline, news story after news story which suggest that the schools are to blame for the continuing gap between the test scores of white students and black and Hispanic students.
The same World-Herald edition which carried a front page story saying schools were being pressured to close the educational gap as reflected in test scores also carried a story reporting that the number of births to unwed mothers across the United States had increased to a record percentage—a development not likely to send more children to school well-prepared to learn.
A Jeff Koterba cartoon in The World-Herald dramatically depicted the problem: A mother and a small child starting out life together, walking into the future by themselves, a second parental figure being conspicuous by his total absence.
When will we start concentrating on the problem which Koterba suggested: The absence of the father as the child grows up creates all kinds of problems, including some which the schools are supposed to solve.
* * *
From time to time, I plan to reprint some of the humorous column-ending items from past years. I hope you agree with me they are still worth a chuckle. For example:
Dr. Marian Andersen’s role as my “health nazi” (her description) sometimes produces surprising but attention-getting advice, direct or implied.
The other morning, the attention-getting advice took this form when Marian observed me preparing to eat breakfast:
“Doctors all over the world are shaking their heads over the fact that you use half-and-half on your Cream of Wheat.”
I continued to pour the half-and-half, but, admittedly, I poured a little less than I might otherwise have used. And I was pleased to know that Marian had, figuratively, enlisted the help of doctors all over the world in advising me as to a healthful lifestyle.
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