President Barack Obama took aim the emerging 2016 presidential field at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday even as he joked about his own waning time in office.
The president often gets good laughs at the annual event that brings together politicians, journalists, and celebrities, and this year he sent some of the barbs toward Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, the Koch brothers, and the media who cover him. He was joined by headline entertainer Cecily Strong, a cast member on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
“Welcome to the fourth quarter of my presidency,” Obama said, introducing an irreverent-by-Washington-standards speech, the second-to-last he is set to give. “I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left.”
The first joke took aim at his own vice president, who is known for public displays of affection toward women that sometimes raise eyebrows. “The fact is I feel more loose and relaxed than ever,” Obama said. “Those Joe Biden shoulder massages, they’re like magic.”
Next up was his own rapid aging. “I look so old, John Boehner’s already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral,” Obama said, referring the the Republican House speaker’s controversial invitation for the Israeli prime minister to address Congress.
But much of the fun came at the expense of the presidential hopefuls, both those who have declared their intentions and those who haven’t.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, he said, had compared himself to Galileo soon after announcing he was seeking the Republican nomination. “That’s not really an apt comparison,” Obama said. “Galileo believed the earth revolved around the sun. Ted Cruz believes the earth revolves around Ted Cruz.”
“Donald Trump is here, still,” the president said of the real-estate mogul who has repeatedly teased a run for president and who famously got a long set of jokes aimed at him at the 2011 dinner.
Obama didn’t spare his own party. “This is still a time for deep uncertainty,” he said at one point, setting up a reference to Clinton and her recent road trip to the midwest. “I have one friend, just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year, and she’s now living out of a van in Iowa.”
Noting that Clinton had gone unrecognized at a Chipotle restaurant, Obama continued that former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who may mount a primary challenge, “went completely unrecognized at a Martin O’Malley campaign event.”
On independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is also considering a campaign: “Apparently some people want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House,” the president said. “We could get a third Obama term after all!”
Obama seemed gleeful as he poked fun at Washington decorum, saying that his staff had asked him if he had a “bucket list” of things he wanted to achieve during his last two years in his office. “I have something that rhymes with ‘bucket list,’” he said, making it sound like he was cursing. “Take executive action on immigration. Bucket! New climate regulations? Bucket! It’s the right thing to do.”
Later, he invited onto stage the comedian Keegan-Michael Key in his character Luther, Obama’s “anger translator,” who expresses harsher emotions that the usually unflappable commander-in-chief tends to avoid. “Luther,” screeching, criticized CNN’s coverage of Ebola as Obama made more sober statements about the country, until Obama himself began a rant about climate-change deniers that ended with Key cutting him off.
Strong also touched on Cruz, Biden, and O’Malley, who trails far behind Clinton in primary polls.
“Let’s not forget Martin O’Malley,” she said. “I don’t have anything to add. That’s just his actual campaign slogan: ‘Let’s not forget Martin O’Malley.’”
Turning to potential Republican candidates, Strong said Carly Fiorina was going to great lengths to join Fox News and Kentucky Senator “Rand Paul has announced that he’s taking over the family’s not-being-president business.”
Referring to the Secret Service, she said, “The Washington Hilton is great, and I bet that when the president walked in and saw all those bell hops, he thought, ‘Finally, some decent security!’”
“They’re the only law enforcement agency in the country that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot,” she added.
“Thank you to the White House Correspondents’ Association,” she said in closing. “Whatever that is.”