Washington President Barack Obama mocked his own administration and gave playful digs at his critics and Republicans at a black-tie dinner Saturday night attended by a mix of politicians, celebrities and journalists.
The Republican Party was a favorite target for Obama, speaking at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney couldn’t make the dinner, Obama joked, because he was writing his memoir, “How to shoot friends and interrogate people.” It was a reference to Cheney’s support of harsh interrogation and his accidental shooting of a hunting companion.
The president directly addressed Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who was in the audience.
“Michael for the last time, the Republican Party does not qualify for a bailout. Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset, I’m sorry,” said Obama, referring to recent economic steps of the White House and the radio personality’s public criticism of the GOP party leader.
But Obama targeted his own miscues as well.
“No president in history has ever named three commerce secretaries this quickly,” Obama said. The president’s two top choices for the position dropped out.
Obama noted that he and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had been political rivals, but he assured the audience “these days, we could not be closer.”
“In fact the second she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug,” the president said, playing off the threat of a spreading swine flu virus that has targeted Mexico the most.
Obama also turned serious and talked of the financially struggling media industry, praising journalists for holding government officials accountable. “A government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts is not an option for the United States of America,” he said.
The $200-per-ticket dinner attracted plenty of VIPs from outside the Beltway.
Among those attending were Eva Longoria Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Christian Slater, Natalie Portman, Sting, Mariska Hargitay, Steven Spielberg and Jon Bon Jovi. Also there was Richard Phillips, who was held hostage by Somali pirates after his cargo ship was attacked.
Proceeds from the dinner will help feed the hungry and fund journalism scholarships.