Vice President Dick Cheney had to substitute for his boss Saturday night at the annual Gridiron Club dinner, so he repaid President Bush by poking fun at his relationship with the press corps.
“The president is really sorry he couldn’t be here tonight, but he had another obligation,” Mr. Cheney said. “His book club is meeting.”
The president traditionally attends the annual gathering of political VIPs hosted by the press, but he was conferring at Camp David with Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
In keeping with the event’s motto, “Singe but don’t burn,” Mr. Cheney also took a few lighthearted jabs at his predecessor, former Vice President Al Gore, whose household purportedly uses an above-average amount of energy.
“Many argue that global warming is man-made,” Mr. Cheney said, “and it looks like they found the man.”
The unpublicized dinner is “off the record,” and the working press in not invited. However, some of those who attend tend to provide some snippets, and the club held a rehearsal Friday afternoon at which reporters were given song lyrics for the skits.
At Saturday’s dinner, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney joked about his rivals and his Mormon faith.
Noting Rudy Giuliani’s statement that, if elected, he might let his wife attend Cabinet meetings, Mr. Romney poked fun at the polygamy practiced by some Mormons and said: “If I adopt the same policy, we’re going to need a heck of a lot more chairs in the Cabinet room.”
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Democrat, said Mr. Romney is a pro-choice governor from Massachusetts who is running as a pro-life candidate from Michigan.
“Mitt, you’re a little bit confused about this Mormon thing,” Mr. Emanuel said. “It’s multiple wives, not multiple lives.”
The invitation-only club was founded in 1885, making it the oldest professional organization of Washington journalists.
Members moved the annual dinner this year to the Renaissance Washington Hotel after more than six decades at the Capital Hilton.
Skits included a song chiding Mr. Cheney for his gruff demeanor, called “It’s Not Easy Being Mean,” sung to the tune of “It’s Note Easy Being Green.”
The song included such lines as, “It’s not that easy being mean, having to go to meetings and snarl at all these wimps. When I think it could have been nicer being President Cheney, instead of making policy.”
With a wink to veteran journalists about their ever-evolving profession, Cragg Hines of the Houston Chronicle said during the rehearsal: “YouTube asked us to remind you to clean the lens on your camera phones.”
The musical bits — alternately biting, hokey and charming — were not exactly the stuff to get a laugh from a hip, cynical Web blogger — but the club earns points for turning the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” into a self-deprecating jab at old-school journalists.
“But careful of a sneak attack, be sure you never turn your back on an aging journalistic hack,” sang a chorus of club members, who even staged the album’s famous cover art, right down to the Fab Four’s satin marching-band garb.
Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, was skewered along with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in a skit depicting her as cold and calculating.
“She knows the drill, and we’re both smart, between the two, we’ve got one heart,” members sang to the tune of the Vietnam-era “Ballad of the Green Berets.”
“Cold as ice, warm as a bun, vote for her, get two for one.”
Fellow presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, fared a bit better, though he was taken to task to the tune of “Soul Man” for his scrubbed, chameleonlike public image: “I’m not so wild, I’m not so mean, I’m articulate, ooh baby, I am clean.”
This story is based in part on wire service reports.