President Obama performed his final standup routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night, commenting on his time in office, the press and the 2016 presidential election candidates and inspiring a slew of comments and reactions on social media.
Although campy correspondent dinner speeches have come to define Obama’s presidency, Saturday night’s routine — which began with the verse “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone” from the popular song “Cups” playing as Obama walked out — was particularly brimming with quotably hilarious moments in each category.
“It is an honor to be here at my last, and perhaps the last White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” he began. “You all look great. The end of the Republic has never looked better.”
From there, the president launched into politics and the changing times.
“Eight years ago, I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific,” he said, joking about his aged “gray, grizzled” appearance before asking security to “bar the doors” and calling out Republican leaders for rejecting his phone calls.
But it was not just Congress who had him stressed.
“Even some foreign leaders, they’ve been looking ahead, anticipating my departure,” he said. “Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe.”
Obama then took cracks at prominent journalists in his “key staff” at the White House.
“Savannah Guthrie, she has left the White House press corps to host the ‘Today’ show,” he said. “Norah O’Donnel left the briefing room to host ‘CBS This Morning.’ Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.”
He then referred to “Spotlight,” a film depicting “investigative journalists with the resources and the autonomy to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable,” as the “best fantasy film since ‘Star Wars.’ He acknowledged the “cheap shot” before continuing to call out Buzzfeed and The Washington Post.
From there, he brought up the 2016 elections and the unprecedented power of young voters, acknowledging that Bernie Sander’s slogan “helped his campaign catch fire among young people.”
“Hillary’s slogan has not had the same effect,” he said before an image of a boulder on a hill appeared with the slogan “Trudge up the Hill.”
“Look, I’ve said how much I admire Hillary’s toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience,” Obama said. “You’ve got to admit it though, Hillary trying to appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook. ‘Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.’ It’s not entirely persuasive.”
Obama then attacked the Republican side, noting the confusion some of his guests experienced over the invitations to the dinner.
“Guests were asked to check whether they wanted steak or fish,” he said. “But instead, a whole bunch of you wrote in Paul Ryan. That’s not an option people.”
He went on to talk about those candidates who “aren’t polling high enough to qualify for their own joke,” such as Kasich.
To everyone’s surprise, Obama appeared to end his speech before mentioning controversial candidate and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
“I’m just kidding,” he said. “You know I’m going to talk about Trump. Come on…. Although I am a little hurt that he’s not here tonight…. What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel?”
Obama mentioned the Republican establishment’s “incredulous” realization that Trump is “their most likely nominee.”
“But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world,” he said. “Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan. And there is one area where Donald’s experience could be invaluable and that’s closing Guantanamo because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground.”
The night ended on a positive note, with Obama voicing his appreciation for his press corps.
“We’ve always shared the same goal to root our public discourse in the truth,” he said. “To open the doors of this democracy. To do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just … Taking a stand on behalf of what is true does not require you shedding your objectivity.
“In fact, it is the essence of good journalism. It affirms the idea that the only way we can build consensus, the only way that we can move forward as a country, the only way we can help the world mend itself is by agreeing on a baseline of facts when it comes to the challenges that confront us all.”