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The Annual White House SOB Christmas Poem

Okay, let me explain.

We reporters who work in the basement of the White House press room, generally hailing from less, well, less prestigious journalistic outfits, have long referred to ourselves as the “Sons of the Basement,” or SOBs.

For example, CBS. ABC and NBC are upstairs. CNN and Fox News are downstairs. The Associated Press is upstairs. Bloomberg is downstairs. So is the Detroit News. You get the idea.

Every Christmas, we throw ourselves a party in the basement featuring sumptuous dishes prepared by individual reporters. Okay, and some expertly selected store-bought items.

I am known for two things in relation to these parties.

Having little time or inclination to prepare a dish, I am generally tasked for some reason with bringing the mayonaise – and maybe a couple of other small things. But always the mayonaise. It’s just a tradition.

One year, on my way over the White House with a large glass jar of Hellmann’s, I decided to stop at the ATM. As I fumbled at the machine trying to balance my groceries – I dropped the mayonaise.

Interestingly, it cracked open, and the mayonaise emerged upwards in the form of a large white blob. It looked very much like someone’s skull had cracked open and their brain had popped out, gently bobbing after being released from its hard encasement.

I looked at it, decided that it was too difficult to clean up, and that, anyway, succeeding customers might be similarly intrigued and repelled by the odd sight. And so I just left my broken jar of mayonaise, with its cerebrum hanging out, there in front of the Citibank ATM on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The other thing I was known for was working most of the way through the parties, as other reporters ate and drank beside me. I had a deadline right at about the time the party was thrown, which is always following that day’s briefing. And my editor really didn’t care if I got my slice of pink, cured pig or not.

I was at the White House today, but I hadn’t noticed the announcements for the party, and I had other obligations after the briefing, so I missed the celebration this year. And so I didn’t get to hear the annual reciting by SRN Radio reporter Greg Clugston of the Christmas poem he writes each year. He was kind enough to send it to me, and so I share it with you here.


‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
The 2012 White House Press Basement Version
by Greg Clugston

‘Twas the night before Christmas and in the White House,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that a tax plan soon would be there.

The holiday treats were stale and bland,
After Mrs. Obama had sugar plums banned.

The president was sleeping – for the hour was late,
He was tired and groggy, like the Denver debate.

He dreamed of the year and his bruising campaign,
Romney was tougher, it seems, than McCain.

With the economy weak and the jobless rate high,
Mitt made his case as the best fix-it guy.

Republicans eyed victory – there was change in the air,
In Tampa, Clint Eastwood conversed with a chair.

Romney rose in the polls and enjoyed his ascent,
But, oh, how he stumbled with “47 percent.”

Challenges abound in this new second term,
A Susan Rice pick could be tough to confirm.

Obamacare won with John Roberts at the wheel,
But the birth control mandate remains under appeal.

There’s John Boehner, of course, and their partisan tiff,
That threatens to drive us straight over the cliff!

With a Cabinet shuffle and more slots to fill,
He listed off changes, but held doubts for the Hill:

“It’s goodbye to Hillary, Panetta, and Tim;
And David Petraeus – now who’ll follow him?”

Suddenly, on the South Lawn, there arose such a clatter,
Obama looked up to see what was the matter.

Then what did appear, to wondering eyes?
But a man of great stature — and considerable size.

His eyes – how they twinkled!  His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

Chubby and plump and his eyes a bit misty,
There stood New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

He had come from the coast, badly battered by Sandy,
Seeking FEMA assistance and some holiday candy.

Christie praised POTUS for keeping Jersey afloat,
A far cry from his GOP convention keynote.

Riding high in the polls, Christie’s eyes held a gleam,
Was he thinking of running in 2016?

A White House bid comes at quite a high price,
So the president offered some political advice.

And I heard him exclaim, though it sounded absurd:
“Merry Christmas to all!  And don’t mess with Big Bird!”


Inside View || An Obama Press Conference

As you know, President Obama has pretty much abolished the press conference. The one he held November 14 was only the second, full-length formal news conference he has bestowed upon us all year.

I was there, and I took some pictures for you to give you a sense of what it’s like to be at a presidential news conference. It’s an unusual look inside an event that I imagine will get even closer to extinction as Obama’s second term wears on.

Here’s a view of the warmup. In what must be an excruciating task, the TV types must stand up in the room and pretend they’re just talking to their cameras, while their colleagues look on in amusement. Standing from left to right: Hans Nichols of Bloomberg, Ed Henry of Fox News, and Nancy Cordes of CBS.

Ed Henry’s producer appears to have whispered something nasty in his ear.

The Big Entrance

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney slips in and takes a place in the back.

The “photogs” get their shot.

My point of view.

Martha Washington keeps an eye on Obama.

Searching for words on the teleprompter during the opening statement.

As is the custom, the first question goes to the Associated Press. Ben Feller appears to show off by asking it with his eyes closed.

The view down the row.

Obama takes another question. Possibly annoyed.

I also took a little video on my iPhone to give you more of the feel.

And there you have it. The final press conference of 2012, I expect. For all we know, it may have to last us until 2014.

All photos Copyright 2012 by Keith Koffler

Take that, Bush

Oh, the indignity. The fabric that graced the floors of the halls of power during the Bush administration – the corridors strolled by Bush, Cheney, Rove and the like – has been shred into patches of rug fit for common reporters and their ilk.

From the pool report of Obama’s remarks at the White House to officials representing historically black colleges.

Also of interest: a cameraman noted that the little squares of carpet set out on the platform for camera stands were actually old pieces of West Wing carpeting from the Bush presidency. Touche.


News Flash: Apparently, the cameraman was wrong! The pool report has been amended.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest wanted to clarify that, per my comment in the last report about White House camera stands being set up on little carpet squares that were formerly pieces of Bush-era White House carpeting, they are not pieces from Bush’s Oval Office rug.

From Josh:

“The carpet scraps used for events in the White House Residence are the remnants of carpet projects in the Residence.  As you would expect, President Bush’s Oval Office rug is intact and is the responsibility of the Curator.”

Well, I guess it’s only a damn carpet anyway.

How Fox News Made the White House Briefing Room Front Row

The White House Correspondents’ Association just sent to its members the minutes of its Aug. 1 meeting at which the latest round of seating room assignments was decided in the wake of Helen Thomas’ evacuation of her front row seat. Helen, you will remember, recently suggested sending the Israeli Jews back to Germany and Poland,… Continue Reading

White House Basement Flooded. What’s New?

Well, another day, and another environmental disaster in the White House press room. We’re all used to peeling walls, weird wet spots, strange and lingering smells, rats and mice, and discoveries of like half eaten sandwiches from reporters who worked the White House beat in the 1970s. So when a reporter yesterday entered the basement… Continue Reading