“The press seems to think it is ironic that I, born of great privilege, think people want to work for what they are given,” she said. “As if being Donald Trump’s daughter isn’t the hardest job in the world.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat and presidential candidate, aimed at one of the more sensational stories of recent weeks: “My speech will be shorter than a Robert Kraft visit to Orchid’s Day Spa.”
And Sen. John Kennedy, the Republican from Louisiana, took a turn at the president’s cabinet and the ongoing scrutiny of the Mueller investigation: “So far, not a single member has been found to be secretly working for the United States.”
It took the ballroom crowd of about 1,000 ultra-formally dressed a few beats to get it.
The annual dinner is one of the few remaining large white tie events in Washington, but it still draws a mix of administration figures, media personalities and Capitol Hill lawmakers. The event, thrown by a group largely made up of D.C. media bureau chiefs, is a throwback to the 19th century, when it started, and culminates in the entire crowd locking arms and singing “Auld Lang Syne.” But it is still one of the more in-demand tickets of a series of annual media organization fetes, bringing together boldfaced names who otherwise would not mix.
Among the attendees were Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Ted Cruz, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, presidential candidate John Delaney and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. One of the few Hollywood figures in attendance was James L. Brooks, who took the chance to get a few photos with administration figures.
The evening is filled with jokes and journalists’ skits, often with targets in the room, but it is not as biting as the better-known White House Correspondents Association dinner in late April. The Gridiron Club motto is “singe, not burn.” On Saturday, there was some singe.
Judy Woodruff, introducing some of the VIPs in the room, noted the presence of Jared Kushner, and quipped that it was “over the objections of John Kelly.” The joke was a riff on a New York Times report that President Trump demanded Kushner get a top-secret security clearance, over the objections of his then-chief of staff.
Her husband Al Hunt noted the president’s recent trip to Hanoi, and that he was pleased that “he could make it to Vietnam and that his bone spurs had healed.”
Trump was not at the event, though he was present last year. Ivanka Trump said that her father asked her to step in at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. She quipped that there were reports, though, that Chris Christie was saying he was his first choice, “but that Jared blocked it.”
The dozen or so music skits sought to skewer figures across the spectrum. Yes, there were songs about Trump, the wave of investigations, and other scandals, but there also was plenty of focus on the Democrats’ lurch left, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s tax proposals and the Green New Deal.
Klobuchar was the target of a few barbs about the New York Times story on how she treats her staff, and an instance in which an aide got her a salad to eat on a plane flight, only to forget to bring a fork. So instead, Klobuchar ate with her comb. She herself took note.
“I’m telling you. You guys haven’t lived until you’ve toasted a bagel with a blow dryer. Or ironed a grilled cheese sandwich on an ironing board. ‘MacGyver’!”