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Obama spares none, floors all at his final White House mock-fest

US President Barack Obama on Saturday took aim at Democrats and Republicans alike in his final appearance headlining the star-studded White House correspondents’ dinner, but saved his sharpest barbs for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

world Updated: May 01, 2016 22:09 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
President Barack Obama laughs as he listens to Larry Wilmore, the guest host from Comedy Central, speak at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday.
President Barack Obama laughs as he listens to Larry Wilmore, the guest host from Comedy Central, speak at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday.(AP Photo)

President Barack Obama spared no one at his last White House Correspondents’ Dinner address on Saturday — himself, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, “The Donald”— and floored all.

If his jokes for the night worked, he started, “I’m going to use (them) at Goldman Sachs next year”, dinging Clinton on her speeches to Wall Street firms after her term as secretary state.

He called Bernie Sanders, a lifelong Independent who is running for Democratic party’s presidential nomination and who was in the audience, the “bright new face” of the party.

About himself, he riffed “I am gray, grizzled and just counting down the days to my death panel”, compared to the “young man full of idealism and vigor” who took office eight years ago.

This was Obama’s last White House Corespondents’ Dinner — and the last ever, he declared — but if anyone was expecting an emotional farewell, no-drama Obama was not their man.

The president, who likes to call himself the comedian-in-chief, had a great night — scored funny by 80% of those polled by CNN — and looked every bit in form as he always has.

The dinner is an annual event hosted by reporters accredited to cover the White House where the president gets to mock friends, family — the first lady included — and foes.

A professional comic follows the president’s act usually — it was Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore this time — but the mock-fest has taken on a foreboding side since 2011.

Shortly after wrapping up the dinner then, May 2, Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden in a raid in Pakistan, which was underway as he had sipped wine and joshed around.

No such announcements have followed any of the dinners since, but there is always this sense of anticipation. “Who you killing tonight?” Gilmore asked Obama on Saturday.

This time, the president stuck to jokes. He had a few more for Clinton, whose attempts to woo youngsters, he said, was like an old relative who just signed up for Facebook.

“‘Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary’,” he said. “It’s not entirely persuasive.”

Clinton has struggled with young voters, who’ve tended towards Sanders, attracted by his promise of free education at public colleges, universal healthcare and just his personality.

He ticked off Sanders for trying to distance himself from him.“I am hurt … I mean that’s just not something that you do to your comrade (Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist).”

And then the Republicans. About Ted Cruz’s recent misstep on basketball — the candidate called a basketball hoop a ring, Obama said, “But sure, I’m the foreign one.”

Some conservatives have long believed — despite proof to the contrary — that Obama was born abroad. And Cruz has tasted some of that himself now, being born in Canada, to an American mother.

Then, the president suddenly looked like he was wrapping up. What, no Donald Trump? “I’m just kidding! You know I’m going to talk about Trump. Come on.”

Obama said he was “hurt” a little that Trump was not in the room. “We had so much fun that last time.” Trump did attend the 2015 dinner and went back with a few bruises. But not this time.

Is this dinner too tacky for the Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home eating a Trump steak (a failed business venture), tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel?”

The president ended his act by dramatically dropping his microphone to the ground, saying, “Obama out”.

ht epaper

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