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Obama takes center stage at correspondents' dinner

The president pokes fun at the GOP as well as his own administration at the annual black-tie dinner.

May 11, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — It was the hottest ticket in town, a black-tie dinner gathering of Washington's political and media elite, but Dick Cheney couldn't make it.

The former vice president was busy, President Obama joked, working on his memoir, "tentatively titled, 'How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.' "

As the star attraction of Saturday night's star-studded annual White House Correspondents' Assn. dinner, Obama enjoyed poking fun at his critics and the Republican Party. But his own administration, in power for just more than 100 days, was also a target of the president's playful digs and one-liners.

"I believe my next 100 days will be so successful that I will be able to complete them in 72 days," he said to a roar of laughter. "And on my 73rd day, I will rest."

His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, Obama observed, always has a hard time on Mother's Day. "He's not used to saying the word 'day' after 'mother,' " Obama said.

The chairman of Republican National Committee, Michael S. Steele, was "in the house tonight," Obama noted. "Or as he would say, 'in the heezy.' "

"Michael, for the last time, the Republican Party does not qualify for a bailout," Obama told Steele. "Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset. I'm sorry."

Obama made light of his frequent use of a teleprompter and poked fun at Vice President Joe Biden's habit of speaking off the cuff. And about the Democratic Party, Obama said his administration has helped in "bringing in fresh, young faces -- like Arlen Specter." The 79-year-old Pennsylvania senator, a former Republican, switched parties last month.

Obama noted that he and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had once been political rivals. "These days," he assured the gathering at the Washington Hilton ballroom, "we could not be closer.

"In fact, the second she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug and said I should go down there myself."

Proceeds from the event go to feeding the hungry and funding journalism scholarships.

The correspondents' association donated $23,000 -- some of it saved by skipping formal dessert at the dinner -- and raised an additional $75,000 from several major media organizations for two food banks, So Others Might Eat and Share Our Strength.

Funding for the journalism scholarships remained at $132,000 a year.

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