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State of the Union: Obama's salmon joke makes a splash

The president's snappy one-liner about fishy bureaucracy breaks up a sometimes plodding State of the Union address. Twitter users and armchair commentators eagerly take the bait.

January 26, 2011|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times

For many viewers, the star of the night was the salmon.

President Obama broke up a sometimes plodding State of the Union address Tuesday night with a snappy one-liner about excessive bureaucracy.

"The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater," he quipped. "And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."


The one-liner got a rousing laugh from the audience and gave online armchair commentators at home fodder for the remainder of the night.

"A very witty fish joke," a reader commented on a live chat at

Filmmaker and liberal political commentator Michael Moore wrote on his Twitter feed, referencing the president's opening call for unity and respect between the parties: "Soon a fresh water salmon will sit next to a salt water salmon in the spirit of civility."

Another Twitter commenter remarked, in constitutional language, on the president's duties: "He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend #salmon."

The one-liners continued as Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin delivered the Republican rebuttal.

"This guy is going to try to sell me a blender that can turn #salmon into puree, isn't he," former "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann tweeted.

But the president couldn't satisfy everyone.

"Elitist. Real Americans eat their salmon raw," tweeted Slate Magazine reporter Chris Beam.

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