Ah, the few, the proud. That would be the 65 Gridiron Club members who have finally drawn President Obama to their annual dinner Saturday night at the Renaissance Washington Hotel; the president turned them down in preceding years. This is not an intimate affair. Along with 650 guests, Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and puckish rocker Jon Bon Jovi will be there. So will Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, lauded by Republicans for the spirited stature of his presidential intentions, dismissed by conservatives for suggesting the party declare a truce on social issues for the sake of party unity. Oh well.
The real question is whether Gridiron management can control the tweeting, Facebooking, camera-phone-wielding riffraff and itchy texting fingers. Journalists are hard-wired to report on whatever happens to be in front of them: Their fanciest shoes, the firmness of their pasta, something the dog is doing.
The event, while on the record, is closed to cameras. C-SPAN's king gentleman Brian Lamb couldn't get in with a Brownie Instamatic if he wanted to. His standing request to cover the auspicious occasion has once again been turned down, despite an eloquent plea for transparency. And there's "irony," he says. Journalists + politicians + cocktails logically should yield meaningful coverage. But no, no. Tradition and ambience must rule.
There's always the Sunday afternoon after-party, a kind of Gridiron Lite with skits and cuteness and $75 tickets sold through the likes of the Harvard Club. Mr. Lamb and his network have other quests, though.
"We want to put TV cameras in the Supreme Court to cover oral arguments. And we want to add our own independent cameras into House and Senate chambers. Currently, the feed from both House and Senate chambers are government cameras," says a cozy source "And about that Gridiron. There's nothing else we've tried to gain access to, year after year. This is the granddaddy of all media dinners."
SAME OLD, SAME OLD
"From the this'll-add-fuel-to-the-fire file: Joyce Slocum, National Public Radio's new interim chief executive, has made five federal-level political contributions of more than $500, all to Democrats," says the Center for Responsive Politics. "Between 1999 and 2002, Slocum spread about $3,500 between Democratic U.S. House candidate Regina Montoya Coggins and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ron Kirk, who today serves as President Obama's chief trade representative."
Once it was just "undocumented workers" and "illegal aliens." The immigration lexicon has just expanded. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has two more categories: "special interest" and "other than Mexican" aliens to cover, uh, visitors from countries considered a high threat to the United States because of their suspected ties to terrorism.
Last year, border agents apprehended 663 "Aliens From Special Interest Countries" that include Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Agents also caught 59,016 illegals from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. More than 463,000 "individuals" were being smuggled over the Mexican border. "We should not be surprised if terrorists take advantage of our porous borders in light of the Obama administration's lax approach to border security," says Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Act inquiry.
"When you have an administration that pushes illegal alien amnesty, permits illegal alien sanctuary policies, and attacks states like Arizona for seeking to enforce the rule of law, it sends a signal to our enemies to cross the border illegally and to do their worst," Mr. Fitton adds.
From the National Enquirer, a now-and-then news organization, regarding Monica Lewinsky, 37, the White House intern who once dallied with President Clinton, 65,can-it-be 15 years ago:
"Monica still hasn't got over Bill and would take him back in a second, a friend said. She told me: 'There will never be another man in my life that could make me as happy as he did.' Monica still carries a torch for him. She's dated some guys, off and on, since the whole White House mess. But she's never been able to get Bill out of her heart."
New York Times editor William Keller lauds Arianna Huffington, "who has discovered that if you take celebrity gossip, adorable kitten videos, posts from unpaid bloggers and news reports from other publications, array them on your Web site and add a left-wing soundtrack, millions of people will come," he says.
But he is wiser after serving with the "queen of news aggregation" and creator of the $315 million Huffington Post on a fancy journalism forum.
"I had come prepared with a couple of memorized riffs on media topics, which I duly presented," Mr. Keller recalls. "Afterward, we sat down for a joint interview with a local reporter. A moment later, I heard one of my riffs issuing verbatim from the mouth of Ms. Huffington. I felt so … aggregated."
POLL DU JOUR
• 67 percent of likely U.S. voters say police officers should make automatic immigration checks on drivers pulled over for traffic violations.
• 24 percent disagree.
• 66 percent favor "strict government sanctions" on employers who hire illegal immigrants.
• 19 percent oppose such sanctions.
• 51 percent support government sanctions on landlords who rent or sell property to illegal immigrants.
• 27 percent are opposed, 22 percent are undecided.
Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted March 8 and 9.
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