Washington, Mar.17 (ANI): President Barack Obama has decided that he is too busy to attend the Gridiron's annual banquet later this month.
He will be the first president since Grover Cleveland to skip the white-tie-and-tails affair in his first year in office.
The official line from the Gridiron Club - a society of Washington reporters, columnists, and bureau chiefs - is, "We understand."
But some Gridiron veterans make clear they don't understand.
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page said, "People feel uncommonly saddened, miffed and burned. I don't think he understands the implications of not coming to the club in the first year. It's not your ordinary state dinner. I think it would be helpful for him and his relations with the Washington establishment to come to the club."
Beyond bruised feelings among the pundit class, Obama's snub is a revealing cultural moment.
Gridiron has for decades been an inner sanctum of Washington's political press corps. The club's mostly aging members were considered highly prestigious because they said so - and because they had the ability to summon the capital's political elite to a spring frolic of skits and songs.
But if a young and glamorous president decides he can afford to blow off an august and tradition-bound institution, one has to at least entertain the possibility that this institution may not be quite as august as its members assumed.
The rejection was heightened by the that's-the-night-I-wash-my-hair explanation the Gridiron got from Obama.
At first, Gridiron members heard through back channels that the Obama family would be in Chicago during the Obama daughters' spring break from school. Then, on Friday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said at his daily briefing that the family would actually be in Camp David on March 21, the night of the dinner.
That's not exactly out of town by presidential standards - in fact, it is about a 20-minute helicopter ride if Obama had decided the event were important enough.
According to one member, "We got the impression from talking to our senior members who had talked to senior people at the White House that Mrs. Obama had made the decision about the family's spring break and no one on the senior staff was about to challenge that." (ANI)