President Barack Obama poked fun at himself and political adversaries like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Rep. Michele Bachmann on Saturday night — joking about his radical second-term shakeup, from “strapping young Muslim Socialist” to retiree golfer.
“Time passes,” Obama quipped at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner after displaying a mock magazine cover, “Senior Leisure,” which bore his image. “Get a little gray.”
The annual gathering at the Washington Hilton Hotel brings together an unlikely pairing of journalists, government officials, politicians, and media personalities for an evening of light-hearted banter and celebrity gawking dubbed the “nerd prom.”
Presidents are made fun of — and they poke fun at themselves, too. In this case, Obama told an audience of Hollywood and Washington royalty that he would like to hone in on first lady Michelle’s popularity secrets — and the president produced three mock photographs — all of him wearing bangs.
“I thought this looked pretty good, but no bounce,” he said.
This year’s headliner was comedian and late-night TV talk-show host Conan O’Brien, who first appeared at the dinner in 1995 when Bill Clinton was president.
O’Brien, who donated his entire $10,000 fee to the association’s scholarship fund, told Obama that he understood the potential downside of the evening.
“Now I’ve made some jokes about the president this evening and I’m looking forward to my audit,” he said. “It’s coming. I know sir. It’s coming.”
For his part, the president acknowledged that he still makes “rookie mistakes,” referencing the comment he made about California Attorney General Kamala Harris at a recent fundraiser in which he described her as the best-looking attorney general in the country.
“As you can imagine, I got into trouble when I got back home,” Obama said. “Who knew Eric Holder was so sensitive?”
He also noted his disappointing 2-for-22 basketball shooting performance at the White House Easter Egg hunt.
“Two hits, 20 misses,” Obama said. “The executives at NBC asked, ‘What’s your secret?’”
“Yes, maybe I have lost a step,” he conceded.
President Obama then turned his attention to several of the media organizations represented at the dinner.
“I know that CNN has taken some knocks lately, but I admire their commitment to covering all sides of the story — just in case one of them happens to be accurate.”
The network came under heavy fire for its reporting during the April 15 blasts at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
Among the political heavyweights at this year’s gala were 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain; 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich; House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia; Sen. Cruz; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, and Democratic political consultant David Axelrod.
The celebrity A-list included filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg; actors Kevin Spacey, Patrick Stewart, Sharon Stone, Katy Perry, Michael Douglas, and Kate Walsh; “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus; singers Barbra Streisand and Jon Bon Jovi; Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington of the ABC series “Scandal,” and Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas.
Besides Attorney General Eric Holder, other Obama administration officials at the event included White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Media heavyweights included Bill O’Reilly and Juan Williams of Fox News; Bob Schieffer, Charlie Rose and Gayle King of CBS; Anna Wintour of Vogue, and CNN President Jeff Zucker.
The president closed by noting the nation's recent tragedies in Massachusetts and Texas — and the floods in the Midwest.
“We’ve had some difficult days,” Obama began. “But even when the days seem darkest, we’ve seen humanity shine at its brightest.”
Besides praising first-responders, National Guardsmen, law-enforcement officers “who lived their oath to service and protect,” the president acknowledged “everyday Americans who are opening their homes and their hearts to perfect strangers.
“We also saw journalists at their best,” singling out the coverage of The Boston Globe to applause.
“That’s what great journalism is — and that’s what great journalists do,” Obama said.
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