WASHINGTON — President Obama made light of the recent spat between White House economic adviser Gene Sperling and journalist Bob Woodward Saturday night when he turned on his comedic charm before an elite group at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner.
“This whole brouhaha has had me a little surprised,” President Obama said. “Who knew Gene [Sperling] could be so intimidating? Or let me phrase it differently: Who knew anybody named Gene could be this intimidating?
“You notice that some folks couldn’t make it this evening. It’s been noted that Bob Woodward sends his regrets, which Gene Sperling predicted. … I know that some folks think we responded to Woodward too aggressively, but hey, can anybody tell me when an administration has ever regretted picking a fight with Bob Woodward? What’s the worse that could happen?” Obama said.
The argument between Sperling and Woodward came to the spotlight after Woodward revealed the White House economic adviser told him he would “regret staking out that claim” that President Obama was “moving the goal posts” on additional revenue.
In his speech before the exclusive Gridiron Club Dinner, the president addressed the grievances raised by the press corps about the administration’s lack of access and transparency.
“Some of you have said that I’m ignoring the Washington press corps, that we’re too controlling. You know what, you’re right. I was wrong. I want to apologize — in a video you can watch exclusively at Whitehouse.gov,” Obama said.
The Gridiron Club is one of Washington, D.C.’s most exclusive organizations for journalists. The annual event, which held its 128th dinner Saturday, features musical skits poking fun at Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
As the president reaches out to Congress this week to reach an agreement on replacing the sequester cuts, he incorporated the current fiscal fight into his comedy routine.
“Because of sequester, they cut my tails. My joke writers have been placed on furlough,” he said. “There is one thing in Washington that didn’t get cut: The length of this dinner. Yet more proof that the sequester makes no sense.”
The president highlighted a recent thirsty mishap by a popular politician on the Republican side — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
“Of course, as I begin my second term, our country is still facing enormous challenges,” the president said, as he took a long sip of water. “That, Marco Rubio, is how you take a sip of water.”
Despite roasting Republicans, the president didn’t spare those on the Democratic side, poking fun at Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden, who may decide to launch a 2016 presidential bid.
“Let’s face it Hillary [Clinton] is a tough act to follow. … Frankly, though, I think it’s time for him to stop showing up at work in pant suits. It’s a disturbing image. I don’t know where he buys them. He’s a tall guy,” Obama said of Kerry.
“It’s no secret that my vice president is still ambitious. But let’s face it, his age is an issue. Just the other day I had to take Joe aside and say, ‘Joe you are way too young to be the pope,’” he said.
The president’s appearance at the Gridiron Dinner marked his second time addressing the elite club. He attended the dinner one other time, in 2011. In addition to the president, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal headlined the dinner for each of their respective parties.
While numerous journalists attended the festivities, TV cameras were prohibited form covering the evening’s event.
But amid all the laughs of the evening, the president extended an appreciation for the journalists that cover him each day.
“In an age when all it takes to attract attention is a Twitter handle and some followers, it’s easier than ever to get it wrong. But it’s more important than ever to get it right. And I’m grateful for all the journalists who do one of the toughest jobs there is with integrity and insight and dedication and a sense of purpose that goes beyond a business model or a news cycle,” he said.