Not since 2016 has a sitting president attended a White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in person, but in a sign that history repeats itself, President Joe Biden might be able to recycle some material from his predecessors.
Because of ongoing concerns about COVID-19, the president is not planning to attend the eating portion of the dinner, but he will be at the Washington Hilton for the formal program and entertainment Saturday night.
At President Barack Obama’s final dinner, he thanked Biden for serving by his side as vice president for eight years, throwing in a jab at former Vice President Dick Cheney along the way.
“I love Joe Biden, I really do. And I want to thank him for his friendship, for his counsel, for always giving it to me straight, for not shooting anybody in the face,” Obama said in 2016, before thanking the evening’s entertainer, comedian Larry Wilmore.
Wilmore is “also known as one of the two black guys who is not Jon Stewart,” Obama said, drawing laughter in his reference to Wilmore’s role on “The Daily Show” as its “Senior Black Correspondent.” “You’re the South African guy, right?” a follow-up joke referring to Trevor Noah, who had the previous year taken over hosting duties of “The Daily Show” from Stewart.
Perhaps because history tends to rhyme, the comedian in 2022? Noah, still the current host of “The Daily Show,” and who was born in Johannesburg.
After Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Obama had a few zingers for the Republicans of the day who had touted the strength of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“You would think they’d appreciate a more assertive approach, considering that the new conservative darling is none other than Vladimir Putin,” Obama said. “Last year, Pat Buchanan said Putin is ‘headed straight for the Nobel Peace Prize.’ He said this. Now I know it sounds crazy, but to be fair, they give those to just about anybody these days.”
Obama had, of course, won the award for 2009.
Some of President Bill Clinton's jokes would probably still work, too, based on analysis on transcripts provided by FactSquared, which, like CQ Roll Call, is part of FiscalNote.
Part of Clinton’s 1998 speech featured what he said were attempts at political spin by some of his predecessors.
“Way back in 1773 a spokesman for Samuel Adams asserted unequivocally that the Boston Tea Party was not a fundraiser, ‘No one paid to attend, there was no quid pro quo,’ he said. ‘The party was just a town meeting for colonists to get to know each other and discuss details of the new tax law,’” Clinton said.
“Here’s one from the Jefferson administration in 1804,” Clinton said. “A spokesman for Vice President Aaron Burr asserted, ‘People don’t kill people, guns kill people.’”
That wasn’t the only time Clinton made a joke about the duel that led to Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury secretary. In 1997, the president was hyping up exhibits at a new Washington-area attraction called the Newseum (which would relocate, expand and close in the years since).
“There’s also an absolutely amazing collection of historical artifacts — C-SPAN’s gavel-to-gavel etchings of the Constitutional Convention,” Clinton said. “CNN’s very first ‘Crossfire.’ From the left, Alexander Hamilton, from the right, Aaron Burr. Topic — gun control.”
But Biden may have a tough time living up to his own standard. He appeared in a video presentation at the 2014 dinner alongside actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was in character as “Veep” Vice President Selina Meyer. In the video, which largely stole the night, Biden and Louis-Dreyfus had ice cream in the White House mess and went for a joy ride in a yellow Corvette.