- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2014

The botched health care site, Malaysian Airlines and midterm elections were all fair game Saturday at the 100th annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

Celebrities and politicians laughed and cheered President Obama and host Joel McHale as they poked fun at everything from the beleaguered launch of the government healthcare site to foreign leaders.

“That could have gone better,” the president said of the health insurance site launch. “In 2008 my slogan was ‘yes we can.’ In 2013 it was control, alt, delete.’ “

Mr. McHale pointed out it was hard to quantify how terrible a launch the site really had because it serves as the basis for analogies.

“The website is now what they use to describe other bad things,” Mr. McHale said.

Even former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made a brief appearance, stepping on stage to assist the president in restarting a frozen video screen — a common problem when the insurance site first launched.

The dinner, where movie and television stars mingle with lawmakers and reporters, was held at the ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Prior to the speeches, a video spoof starring Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Julia Louis Dreyfus, who plays one on television, showed the two on a series of adventures, including sneaking ice cream from the White House kitchen and getting tattoos with Nancy Pelosi.

After stepping to the podium, Mr Obama asked for the “new” set up, in which staff placed two ferns on either side of him — a nod to his wildly successful appearance on the online video series “Between Two Ferns,” with comedian Zach Galifianakis.

His short speech to the glitzy crowd ranged from mockery of CNN’s constant coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines, to the quick rise and fall of Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy.

“Just a tip for you,” Mr. Obama said in reference to Mr. Bundy’s comments about “the negro.” “Don’t start your sentence that way.”

He also pointed out that Republicans were even beginning to care more about other politicians.

“The House of Representatives is giving John Boehner a harder time than they’re giving me,” he said, the joke getting one of the loudest laughs. “Which means orange really is the new black.”

Mr. McHale, who stars on the NBC show “Community” and “The Soup” on E!, took shots at the health care site, as well as politicians and various news outlets.

“One hundred years ago, CNN was only searching for the Wright brothers’ plane,” he said.

As for Washington, D.C., he said the city had the claim to fame of being “the city that started the whole crack smoking mayor craze,” drawing a parallel to former Mayor Marion Barry and current Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

He pointed out that if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton becomes the first female president “we’d pay her 30 percent less,” while New Jersey governor Chris Christie was the butt of both commuter transportation jokes and weight jokes.

He also suggested the president invade Cancun and “take back Texas” to match Russian President Vladimir Putin’s moves in Ukraine.

Affectionately called “nerd prom,” the glitzy event typically brings together star power and political power under one roof.

“Duck Dynasty” Willie Robertson said this was his second dinner, which meant fewer jitters for he and his wife, Korie.

“We were just blown away by the different people,” said Mr. Robertson, a USO bandana around his head and a glass of Seagrams and Sprite in his hand. “I’ve seen every news person and all the stars.”

Mr. Robertson was one of just hundreds of famous faces to grace the brightly lit halls of the Washington Hilton Hotel in Northwest.

Actor Jeff Goldblum admitted to reporters he was “starstruck” at this kind of event.

“There’s all kinds of athletes … everybody is interesting,” he said, adding the event had “a level of intelligence.”

On the red carpet photographers shouted for the attention of Brad Paisley, Patrick Stewart, and “Glee” star Matthew Morrison.

“Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara had to sidle away from reporters after she forgot the name of her dress designer, and towering basketball player Kareem Abul Jabar had many necks craning for his attention.

Ben Carson said he last attended the dinner a decade ago and while he didn’t get starstruck he did find the event fun.

Mr. Carson’s column this week in The Washington Times dealt with skeletons in one’s closet, a practice not uncommon in Hollywood or Washington.

“All branches of government are affected by it,” Mr. Carson said, offering the NSA spying as an example.

The environment, he said, “is ripe for blackmail.”

“The only way to avoid it is to have a more European attitude: My business is your business.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said his limousine pulled up behind Sen. Ted Cruz’s and he watched him get a less than warm welcome from protestors.

Mr. Corbett took some time for fun and attend the dinner but he faces the serious task of running a gubernatorial race this year.

“The economy is coming back, unemployment is going down, we’re growing industry,” he said proudly, adding that people should look to Pennsylvania for leadership in natural gas manufacturing. “We’re going to see manufacturing across the state growing. We’re staying on the move.”

Political commentator and radio and television personality Armstrong Williams said he’s been to 12 dinners in a row and joked that he gets treated like a star.

“It’s one of the best places to network,” he said, adding that 10 years ago he met the David Smith of Sinclair Broadcasting and the rest is history.

“People here run America, they run the world,” said Mr. Williams, who writes a column for The Times. “I always walk away meeting someone I’ve never met before.”

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