(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — With Congress continuing unprecedented levels of bitter partisan debate and the 2012 presidential campaign in full swing, President Obama struck back Saturday night at a town consumed by politics with a light-hearted roast of his critics and own administration.
To all the Congress “members who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight,” he said. “Let’s give them a big round of applause.”
The White House Correspondent’s Dinner is an event where a huge gathering of journalists, politicians, and pop culture celebrities hit the nation’s capital each spring. It’s a time for Washington elite to hobnob with Hollywood stars and, traditionally, for presidents to respond to contemporary issues with a little humor.
The president began by reflecting briefly on last year’s gala; an evening when, unbeknownst to the public, the commander in chief had just given the order to put down “one of the world’s most notorious individuals.” Not Osama bin Laden, but Donald Trump.
And Obama delved quickly into his more immediate critics:
“It’s great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom,” Obama told the audience. “Or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper.”
Recognizing it was going to be a tough campaign in the fall, the president digressed that he actually had a lot in common with the Republican candidate.
“We both think of our wives as our better halves and polls show, to an alarmingly insulting extent, the American people agree,” he said.
Both Romney and Obama pursued college degrees from Harvard. “I have one, he has two. What a snob.”
Even Dog-gate was not off the table, with the president showing a satirical Romney attack-ad against First Pooch Bo Obama. Could American dogs afford four more years of Obama? “For them, that’s 28 years.”
“That’s pretty rough, but I can take it,” he responded. “My stepfather always told me, ‘It’s a boy-eat-dog world out there.’”
Romney was not present for the riff, although Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were in attendance. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and a motley crew of lawmakers were also in the audience.
Obama did take a more serious tone toward the end of his remarks, thanking the assembled journalists for their work and recognizing the sacrifices of reporters Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin, who died “to shine a light on some of the most important stories of our time.” Obama told the correspondents he never forgets the dependence of freedom on an open press.
Before departing, he said he needed to get the Secret Service back in time for their new curfew.
Several journalists were presented awards for their coverage of the executive branch. A team from Politico was recognized for their analysis of the negotiations to raise the U.S. debt ceiling; and Associated Press journalists for their series on the New York Police Department’s surveillance program of minority communities under CIA guidance. The AP has also won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigation.
In the broadcast category ABC’s Tapper was awarded for his scoop that Standard and Poor’s would downgrade the U.S. credit rating over Washington gridlock. It is Tapper’s third consecutive year to be honored at the event.
Proceeds from the lavish dinner are divided among the awards and scholarships for journalism students, also given out that evening. But the president said between the tuxedos, gowns, and fine wine, he was just happy it wasn’t a GSA conference.
Following the dinner, the glitterati huddled under umbrellas to attend a number of after parties hosted by MSNBC at the Embassy of Italy, Vanity Fair at French ambassador’s residence and Capitol File‘s soiree at the Newseum.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio