He Baracks Me Up

Here is my top 10 remarks list from President Barack Obama’s stand-up at the White House Correspondents Association dinner Saturday night.One thing I have noted through the years is that the president, whoever he is, tends to let whatever hair he has down and actually have a good time sending up himself or staffers or otherwise saying stuff that in other venues would be totally inappropriate.

So, pretend (as I had to do) that, having ogled Kyle MacLachlan or Mariska Hargitay or Tyra Banks or Ashton and Demi, you looked up from your plate of porcini-dusted filet, polenta, asparagus and squash to catch a glimpse of the First Lady in a full-length fuschia, sleeveless dress with scooped neck as the president, tuxedoed and flag-pinned, stands and delivers.

You’ll simply have to imagine the “ba da bump bum….ish” of a drumbeat and cymbal riff after each joke. (Not that there was one of those after each joke, but there probably should have been.)

10. “All this change hasn’t been easy. Change never is. So I’ve cut the tension by bringing a new friend to the White House. He’s warm, he’s cuddly, loyal, enthusiastic. You just have to keep him on a tight leash. Every once in a while he goes charging off in the wrong direction and gets himself into trouble. But enough about Joe Biden.”

9. “You know, it’s been a whirlwind of activity these first hundred days. We’ve enacted a major economic recovery package, we passed a budget, we forged a new path in Iraq, and no President in history has ever named three Commerce Secretaries this quickly. Which reminds me, if Judd Gregg [who removed his own name from nomination] is here, your business cards are ready now.”

8.”In the last hundred days, we’ve also grown the Democratic Party by infusing it with new energy and bringing in fresh, young faces like Arlen Specter.”

7. “I am Barack Obama. Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table.”

6. “[RNC Chairman] Michael Steele is in the house tonight. Or as he would say, “in the heezy.” What’s up? Where is Michael? Michael, for the last time, the Republican Party does not qualify for a bailout. Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset, I’m sorry.”

5. “During the second hundred days, we will design, build and open a library dedicated to my first hundred days.”

4.”In the next hundred days, I will meet with a leader who rules over millions with an iron fist, who owns the airwaves and uses his power to crush all who would challenge his authority at the ballot box. It’s good to see you, Mayor Bloomberg. ”

3. “Dick Cheney was supposed to be here but he is very busy working on his memoirs, tentatively titled, “How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.”

2.”I do have to say, though, that this is a tough holiday for Rahm Emanuel because he’s not used to saying the word “day” after “mother.”

Number one is not a joke, but the shout-out he gave journalists at a tough time for the profession. It would be nice if the administartion puts its power where the president’s heart is.

1. “Across the country, there are extraordinary, hardworking journalists who have lost their jobs in recent days, recent weeks, recent months. And I know that each newspaper and media outlet is wrestling with how to respond to these changes, and some are struggling simply to stay open. And it won’t be easy. Not every ending will be a happy one.

“But it’s also true that your ultimate success as an industry is essential to the success of our democracy. It’s what makes this thing work. You know, Thomas Jefferson once said that if he had the choice between a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, he would not hesitate to choose the latter.

“Clearly, Thomas Jefferson never had cable news to contend with, but his central point remains: A government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media of all sorts, is not an option for the United States of America.

“So I may not — I may not agree with everything you write or report. I may even complain, or more likely Gibbs will complain, from time to time about how you do your jobs, but I do so with the knowledge that when you are at your best, then you help me be at my best. You help all of us who serve at the pleasure of the American people do our jobs better by holding us accountable, by demanding honesty, by preventing us from taking shortcuts and falling into easy political games that people are so desperately weary of.

“And that kind of reporting is worth preserving — not just for your sake, but for the public’s. We count on you to help us make sense of a complex world and tell the stories of our lives the way they happen, and we look for you for truth, even if it’s always an approximation [OK, the president couldn’t resist a zinger even here].

“This is a season of renewal and reinvention. That is what government must learn to do, that’s what businesses must learn to do, and that’s what journalism is in the process of doing. And when I look out at this room and think about the dedicated men and women whose questions I’ve answered over the last few years, I know that for all the challenges this industry faces, it’s not short on talent or creativity or passion or commitment. It’s not short of young people who are eager to break news or the not-so-young who still manage to ask the tough ones time and time again. These qualities alone will not solve all your problems, but they certainly prove that the problems are worth solving. And that is a good place as any to begin.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.