US President signs off with 'Obama out'

US President Barack Obama tries to get a driver's licence and turns to former Speaker of the House John Boehner for advice about retirement, in a video spoof at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
Mr Obama poked fun at himself, presidential candidates and reporters at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner where the President regales journalists and celebrity guests with jokes about government and the media.
Mr Obama poked fun at himself, presidential candidates and reporters at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner where the President regales journalists and celebrity guests with jokes about government and the media.PHOTO: REUTERS

He marks his final year in White House with jokes at annual light-hearted press dinner

WASHINGTON • President Barack Obama cracked jokes and poked fun at rivals in his last appearance as United States leader at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, ending his performance with a mic drop and the words "Obama out".

The black-tie event on Saturday - at which the President regales journalists and their celebrity guests with jokes about government and the media - is an annual inside-the-beltway ritual.

Mr Obama poked fun at himself, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and reporters.

"Here we are. My eighth and final appearance at this unique event," he said. "If this material works well, I'm going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans."

That was a jab at Mrs Hillary Clinton, for the paid speeches she gave to the bank in 2013, for which she was reportedly paid US$675,000 (S$907,000). It was also a nod to Harriet Tubman, the American abolitionist whose image will be printed on US$20 bills.

Democrat Bernie Sanders - who wore a suit and tie instead of a tuxedo - was the sole presidential candidate present.

"Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or, to put it in terms you will understand, you look like 37,000 donations of US$27 each," Mr Obama said, a reference to the flood of small contributions to Mr Sanders' insurgent campaign.

To Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus, Mr Obama said: "Glad to see that you feel that you have earned the night off... The Republican Party, the nomination process, it's all going great. Keep it up." The Republicans are split and in disarray over what to do with the party's White House front runner Donald Trump.

Mr Trump, a frequent event guest and who was the target of some pointed jabs at the 2011 dinner, had said he would not attend this year's event. His sons Eric and Donald Jr, however, were among the guests.

Mr Obama said he was "a little hurt" that Mr Trump was absent. "We had so much fun the last time... and it's surprising, you have a room full of supporters, celebrities, cameras, and he says, no.

"Is this dinner too tacky for The Donald? What could he possibly be doing and saying? Is he at home eating a Trump steak? Tweeting insults to Angela Merkel?"

Mr Obama went on to take cracks at Mr Trump's foreign policy experience. "He has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world - Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan..." - a reference to Mr Trump's role in beauty pageants.

The President also mocked reporters for giving Mr Trump so much coverage, noting that the bombastic billionaire had received "the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness his candidacy. You all ought to be proud of yourselves".

Mr Obama ended with the words "Obama out" followed by a microphone drop, a pop culture slang that means the performance was so good, there was nothing left to add.

A slew of Hollywood A- and B-list celebrities were among the 2,600 dinner guests.

They included actors Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, as well as Helen Mirren, Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and singers Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight.

On more serious matters, he also praised the Washington Post's former Teheran correspondent Jason Rezaian, who was released in January after 18 months in an Iranian prison.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NEW YORK TIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'US President signs off with 'Obama out''. Print Edition | Subscribe