WASHINGTON — Getting older changes a guy, President Barack Obama says, and he admits he’s getting crankier.
“Next week I’m signing an executive order to get off my lawn,” Obama joked Saturday night at the Gridiron Club and Foundation’s annual dinner. On top of that, the nation’s graying chief executive says he’s having trouble now with his morning cup of joe. “Coffee really disagrees with me these days,” he says, “which is why John Boehner just invited coffee to address the joint House.”
Obama’s standup routine drew laughs from the audience of more than 650 journalists, lawmakers, administration officials, military officials and others at the Gridiron’s 130th gathering. By tradition, Washington insiders put aside their differences for an evening of laughter, schmoozing and charity fundraising.
With the president providing the gibes on behalf of his administration, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe sharpened their wits for the Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Walker is considering a run for the GOP nomination for president while McAuliffe’s political connections extend to his work as Democratic Party chairman and Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton ally.
Obama targeted himself – “Just a few years ago I couldn’t imagine being in my 50s. Given my approval ratings, I still can’t” – as well as people in the government and the media that cover it.
Noting that Walker remarked recently that he couldn’t say whether Obama was a Christian, the president said his religion taught forgiveness and cracked, “So, Gov. Walker, salaam alaikum.”
Obama said he generally likes Boehner, the House speaker, and noted talk of unhappy House Republicans planning a coup – “or as Bill O’Reilly calls it, `reporting from the war zone.'”
Walker got in his own digs. “I believe that the president of the United States loves America and every American – except Rudy Giuliani.” He also joked about his failure to finish his college degree as he envisioned himself in the White House: “If my first term is anything like college, I won’t make it through four years.”
McAuliffe joined others in needling the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton. “If Hillary decides not to run … I decided not to finish that joke,” he said. He also joked, “Are any of the Secret Service sober enough to drive me home?”
The Gridiron Club and Foundation, founded in 1885, has drawn every president after Grover Cleveland to its annual dinner at least once. Obama made his third appearance, having attended in 2011 and 2013.
An early script for the evening’s musical send-ups included a jab at Republicans preparing presidential campaigns, sung to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain” from “The Wizard of Oz.” One stanza singled out former Texas Gov. Rick Perry: “He’d be talking to reporters, `bout walling up the borders/ It’d be a fine campaign./And his head he’d be scratchin’ while his thoughts were busy hatchin’/If he only had a brain.”
To the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” came this crack aimed at Hillary Clinton: “First lady’s second-rate/an’ secretary-ya state/Those jobs don’t satiate/this hungry candidate./Well Benghazi left not trace, those emails got erased/That’s the Clinton way-ee-ya. What eye do is okay-ee-ya.
Active membership in the Gridiron Club and Foundation is limited to 65 journalists based in Washington. Money raised through the dinner goes to college scholarships and journalistic organizations.