(AP) President Bush poked fun at himself and the press corps Saturday night and offered a new reason for overhauling the Social Security system. Raising the name of his secretary of defense, Bush said, “We have to fix it or Rumsfeld may never retire.”
Bush noted — with a little help — the presence of a number of new Cabinet members attending the Gridiron Club’s 120th annual dinner.
Turning to Vice President Dick Cheney, the president said, “Dick, maybe you can point them out to me.”
Some of the press skits he had watched earlier in a long evening were about steroid use in professional sports, but Bush said that in looking out at the press corps he was confident none of them were on steroids.
“Those are all natural bodies,” he said.
Bush said anyone looking for a transcript of the evening’s program should call Doug Wead, the longtime Bush family friend who recently made public tape recordings of private telephone conversations he had with Bush before he started running for president.
The president noted that former President Clinton was recovering from surgery and said that “when he woke up he was surrounded by his loved ones” — his wife, daughter, and “my dad.”
The former President Bush and Clinton have become something of an item despite their once fierce political rivalry.
Earlier in the evening, a woman pretending to be John Kerry’s wife sang about how happy she is that he wasn’t elected. Karl Rove revealed his successful strategy for winning President Bush a second term. Wannabe presidential candidates pressed for advantage in the 2008 race.
It was as close to “Saturday Night Live” as Washington gets, as journalists assumed the personas of politicians in song, dance, and wisecracks.
The Gridiron Dinner is a journalistic tradition in which, for one night, members of the Fourth Estate turn the tables on the powerful people they report and write about daily. The Gridiron Club’s motto is to “singe, but never burn.”
In a nod to 2008, they parodied the White House aspirations of Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, featured speakers at the white-tie dinner.
Richardson compared the Bush’s administration’s treatment of U.S. allies over the Iraq war to the NCAA basketball tournament.
“Sixty-four teams start and they’re whittled down to just one,” Richardson said in prepared remarks. “Kind of reminds me of what we’ve done with our allies.”
Hagel paid tribute to Johnny Carson, a Nebraska legend, by impersonating “Carnac the Magnificent,” one of the late comedian’s characters.
“Answer: March Madness,” Hagel said. “What do Democrats call my Social Security plan?”
Having observed their routine, Bush called Richardson and Hagel “a couple of independent thinkers, which in my book is a negative.”
Following another close presidential election, the show poked fun at despondent Democrats and smug Republicans.
Prison-striped Democratic leaders were seen trying to figure a way out of “Gitmo,” the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the government is holding suspected terrorists.
One sketch had Massachusetts Sen. Kerry singing a lament about “why, oh why, oh why did I ever lose Ohio?” while in the next scene his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, appeared positively giddy over her husband’s loss to Bush.
“Thank heaven, he lost the race,” her character sang to the tune of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” “Now I can tell the press just how and when and where to go, and I’m allowed my wine and escargots.”
Republicans were singed, too.
To the tune of “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy,” a Karl Rove impersonator sang about the challenges of turning Bush into presidential timber. “He looked smug, he looked dim. How we gonna win with him?” he sang.
Rumsfeld was rapped for his Iraq war planning. “Rummy, have you some spare Teflon coating that we could wear?” soldiers sang to the tune of “Mister Sandman.” “You said we’d win Iraq with ease, Mr. Rumsfeld, we need Humvees.”
Other 2008-themed skits portrayed Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York singing about how she’ll “turn those red states blue” and Senate newcomer Barack Obama of Illinois, prancing around in a gold outfit and halo, urging the party to “go with a guy who walks on water.”
Founded in 1885, the Gridiron Club is made up of Washington news bureau chiefs, columnists, reporters, cartoonists and editors. It exists only for the annual dinner and political roast. Every president since Benjamin Harrison, except for Grover Cleveland, has attended.