Flame broiling "dog socialism," Mitt Romney, the Secret Service, Kim Kardashian, Huffington Post...
President Obama displayed sharp comic chops on Saturday night as he roasted his own Administration, his political rivals, and the media at the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Everything was fair game in the vast ballroom at the Washington Hilton, including the venue itself, which the President noted would be "a fixer-upper" according to presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. (Above: The President seated for dinner)
"Look at this party," President Obama said. "We’ve got men in tuxes, women in gowns, fine wine, first-class entertainment. I was just relieved to learn this was not a GSA conference."
First Lady Michelle Obama laughed along as her husband gave Romney plenty of other jabs, and she also seemed delighted when Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, took the stage after the President, and flame broiled the Commander in Chief as well as the Washington establishment. (Above: The President, Mrs. Obama, Kimmel)
The election-season war over the President eating dog meat as a child in Indonesia, a subject of national headlines in recent weeks, got particular attention, with the President airing a White House-made video spoof of the controversy.
"What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious," the President quipped, adding "a little soy sauce."
Kimmel also got in a jab about dog cuisine.
"Last week we learned that the President's two favorite steaks are ribeye and seeing-eye," Kimmel said.
Held annually by the members-only press organization that covers the Nation's nerve center, the dinner, known locally as 'the Nerd Prom,' was laden with visiting celebrities in DC for a weekend of parties. #NerdProm and #WHCD were trending topics on Twitter beginning with the Red Carpet arrivals in the late afternoon, with members of the media--and the celebs--Tweeting the walk through the basement of the Hilton. The WHCA marks its 98th anniversary this year.
George Clooney, who will host a fundraiser for the President in May, was front and center at the dinner tables. Also attending were Daniel Day-Lewis; Paul Rudd; Charlize Theron; Diane Keaton; Reese Witherspoon; Paul Rudd; Sofia Vergara; Steven Spielberg; Stevie Wonder; and John Legend, among many other A-listers. All were seated at tables hosted by commercial media entities. The guest list by table and dinner menu is here.
The President and Mrs. Obama arrived at the Hilton by motorcade at 7:23 PM and attended a VIP reception upstairs before heading down to the dinner, where they were seated on a dais at the front of the ballroom alongside the Board members of the WHCA.
Clad in a strapless gown with a voluminous skirt in a bright floral print on a black background, Mrs. Obama wore her hair down, embellishing the look with bejewelled hoop earrings. During the dinner, she sat beside Kimmel (above).
The President was seated between Reuters correspondent Caren Bohan, president of the WHCA, and Reuters Editor in Chief Steve Adler. On Friday, Reuters published a "special report" accusing the Obama Administration of caving in to food lobbyists. The long and sometimes factually incorrect piece maintained that the Administration has moved away from its own child health priorities, and asserted that Mrs. Obama has diluted the Let's Move! campaign in favor of election-year imperatives.
Press Secretary Jay Carney was also seated at the Head Table. The First Lady handed out hugs to the many journalism students receiving scholarship awards from the WHCA before the roasting began.
A host of other White House aides also attended: Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass, who attended without a date, sat with People magazine. Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer and Attorney General Eric Holder sat with Huffington Post. Nancy Ann DeParle, deputy chief of staff for policy, sat with Atlantic Media. Campaign Manager Jim Messina sat with Politico. Senior campaign adviser David Axelrod, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno sat with ABC. Cabinet Secretaries Shaun Donovan, Leon Panetta and Kathleen Sebelius were also at the dinner.
Hot mics & drunk texting...
The President opened his remarks from backstage, pretending to speak on a hot mic while visiting the bathroom, where he wondered aloud what he was actually doing at the dinner. The sound of a toilet flushing was his cue to return to the stage. The bit referenced a moment at the recent Nuclear Summit in South Korea, where the President was caught on an open mic speaking with Russia's Dmitri Medvedev. (Above: The President during his remarks)
During the 2011 dinner, the President's raid on al Quaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden's compound was already underway, and the President included it in his jokes.
"Last year at this time-in fact, on this very weekend--we finally delivered justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals," the President said--and a photo of Donald Trump, in 2011 a candidate for the 2012 race and a guest at the dinner, was flashed on the many video monitors filling the ballroom.
He gave a special dis to the lawmakers enjoying the dinner.
"Congress and I have certainly had our differences; yet, I’ve tried to be civil, to not take any cheap shots," the President said. "And that’s why I want to especially thank all the members who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight."
Mr. Obama spoke of how things have changed during his time in Washington, showing a photo of himself four years ago, smiling, and then a photo of himself looking decidedly unhappy, and then a photo of a gray-haired Morgan Freeman, noting "this is how I will look four years from now."
"That's not even funny," he said, as the audience laughed.
"Four years ago, I was locked in a brutal primary battle with Hillary Clinton," the President said. "Four years later, she won’t stop drunk-texting me from Cartagena."
The President's White House-made video that spoofed the dog fight featured Romney's dog, Seamus, strapped to the roof of Air Force One in a dog carrier. The President said it was an ad from a pro-Romney SuperPac, called the WoofPac in the video.
"What about President Obama? Under his leadership, man's best friend has been forced into automobiles," said the narrator of the fake ad. "Imagine the European-style socialism that he has planned for the next four years. More government handouts, a life of government dependencies, indoctrinating our children, a left wing social agenda, leading from behind. America's dogs cannot afford four more years of Obama. That is 28 years for them. They need leadership now."
"That’s pretty rough," the President said after the video ended. "But I can take it, because my stepfather always told me, it's a boy-eat-dog world out there."
He sent some firebombs at the members of the press, in particular Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington.
"I'd be remiss if I didn’t congratulate the Huffington Post on their Pulitzer Prize," the President said, to applause.
"You deserve it, Arianna. There's no one else out there linking to the kinds of hard-hitting journalism that HuffPo is linking to every single day."
The President took a beat before adding "And you don’t pay them--it's a great business model," which got him the closest thing to booing from his audience.
The President devoted more time to skewering Romney: "He and I actually have a lot in common," the President said.
"We...both have degrees from Harvard; I have one, he has two. What a snob."
"Recently, his campaign criticized me for slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon. In fact, I understand Governor Romney was so incensed he asked his staff if he could get some equal time on The Merv Griffin Show."
The President ended his remarks by giving what he dubbed a conspiracy theorist recap about what he'll do in his second term.
"Allow me to close with a quick preview of the secret agenda you can expect in a second Obama administration," he said. "In my first term, I sang Al Green; in my second term, I'm going with Young Jeezy."
"In my first term, we ended the war in Iraq; in my second term, I will win the war on Christmas. In my first term, we repealed the policy known as "don't ask, don't tell"--wait, though; in my second term, we will replace it with a policy known as, it's raining men. In my first term, we passed health care reform; in my second term, I guess I'll pass it again."
Turning serious, the President hailed reporters who have lost their lives in the line of duty, and thanked the members of the press for protecting democracy, even though "you like to give me a hard time."
"Tonight, we remember journalists such as Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin-- who made the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "So whether you are a blogger or a broadcaster, whether you take on powerful interests here at home or put yourself in harm's way overseas, I have the greatest respect and admiration for what you do."
He got in one last joke before leaving the stage.
"Just to set the record straight, I really do enjoy attending these dinners. In fact, I had a lot more material prepared, but I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew."
Kimmel stepped to the podium at 10:16 PM, and threw plenty of barbs, before finishing by high-fiving the President. (Above: The President laughs during Kimmel's remarks)
"Jimmy got his start years ago on The Man Show," the President said.
"In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception."
Kimmel joked about the Secret Service investigation, President Obama's ears and his name, Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! initiative, Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, Rick Santorum's sweater vest and North Korea's missile attempt.
"Remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow?" Kimmel said to the President. "That was hilarious."
"I have a lot of Secret Service jokes," Kimmel said. "I told them for $800 I wouldn't tell them, but they only offered thirty."
Kimmel pointed to actress Sofia Vergara, where she sat in the audience.
"She's from Colombia. This is what women look like in Colombia," Kimmel said. "What's the Secret Service supposed to do?"
He continued: "If this had happened on President Clinton's watch, those Secret Service agents would've been disciplined with a very serious high-five. Palms would be beet red."
Kimmel reflected on his path to entertaining the President:
"If you told me as a kid I'd be standing on the dais with President Barack Obama, I would've said, 'The president's name is Barack Obama?'"
"You're so skinny," Kimmel told the President. "This is how you know how this country is in bad shape: Our president is starving. North Korea is sending him food aid."
Riffing on weight, Kimmel turned his attention to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, seated in the audience.
"Look, it's Chris Christie," Kimmel said to Mrs. Obama "Get him!"
"Gov. Christie, you may be misunderstanding the state slogan," he added. "It's not the 'Olive Garden State.'"
He also gave Let's Move! a smack.
"They say diplomacy is a matter of carrot and sticks, and since Michelle Obama got to the White House — so is dinner."
Discussing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Kimmel defended fellow comedian Bill Maher.
"Is that slut Rush Limbaugh here?" Kimmel asked. "There's a reason Rush Limbaugh said what he said: Percocet."
"Just to clear things this up for the extreme right wingers, here's the difference between Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh," Kimmel explained. "The people who watch Bill Maher know he's an asshole."
Kimmel's high-five with the Commander in Chief was especially for his tenth-grade high school teacher, he said. The teacher told Kimmel he'd never amount to anything.
(Above: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta with Steven Spielberg)
The President and Mrs. Obama departed the affair at 10:48 PM and were back at the White House without incident by 10:53 PM.
The full transcript of the President's remarks.
The White House spoof video for the "WoofPac":
*Top photo by Lawrence Jackson/White House; others by Pool