Trump shows off his funny side at annual dinner

Trump dished out sharp one-liners throughout his comments at the Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday.

world Updated: Mar 04, 2018 22:53 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump,Gridiron Club dinner,North Korea
File photo of US President Donald Trump.(Reuters)

US President Donald Trump can laugh at himself. But only as he can: no one does it better.

“Nobody does self-deprecating better than I do,” Trump said at the Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday, an annual event at which politicians and journalists rib each other.

He went on demonstrate how.

“I won’t rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un, I just won’t,” he said of the North Korean leader. “As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem not mine.”

Trump teased the possibility of talks with North Korea, saying Pyongyang had “called up” and asked to begin a dialogue but said that he responded with “you have to denuke” first.

Was that said seriously? No word on it yet. The White House has said that for talks to take place, Pyongyang must know that the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is Washington’s ultimate goal, not a precondition.

Last year, Trump skipped the White House Correspondents’ Dinner — an annual event hosted by the White House reporters’ association — raising questions if he was scared of being laughed at or roasted. There is no word yet if he will attend this year. But the Gridiron Club dinner seemed like a start.

“Another calm week at the White House,” Trump said near the start of his 35-minute speech. It was marked by the exit of his long-time aide and confidante Hope Hicks, and the downgrading of his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner’s security clearance. “We finally have it running like a fine-tuned machine.”

Kushner’s woes were good for a few laughs. Trump said he was late to the dinner because “Jared couldn’t get through security”. And turning to his daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump, who was present, Trump said, “Ivanka, you’ve got to do something!”

To his vice president Mike Pence, also present, Trump suggested he should stop dreaming of his removal from office. Trump joked that Pence began each day by asking “Is he impeached yet?”

Trump’s detractors in the Republican Party and outside have for long seen Pence, the staid and non-controversial deputy, as the man to bring the presidency back to its usual state of staid orderliness. And the possibility of Trump’s impeachment is always just another slur or controversy away.

But not so fast. Trump said: “You can’t be impeached when there’s no crime. Put that down!”

Trump also had a go at his attorney general Jeff Sessions, whom he has attacked publicly for recusing himself from the Russia probe. “I offered him a ride over and he recused himself,” said Trump.

That’s probably the kindest thing Trump has publicly said of his attorney general, whom he once called “beleaguered” and slammed him as “disgraceful” just last week.

But a long list of exits is good, according to him. “I like turnover. I like chaos. It really is good,” he said.

So, who is leaving next?

“Now the question everybody keeps asking is, who is going to be the next to leave, Steve Miller (immigration hawk and Trump’s speechwriter) or Melania?”

There has been talk of the first lady’s unhappiness over the continuing reports about Trump’s years-old affairs, which he has denied.

Perish the thought. “She’s actually having a great time,” he said.

First Published: Mar 04, 2018 21:58 IST