- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush poked fun at his potential successors last night, expressing surprise that none of them was in the audience at the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner.

“Senator McCain’s not here,” Mr. Bush said of Republican Party’s nominee-in-waiting John McCain. “He probably wanted to distance himself from me a little bit. You know, he’s not alone. Jenna’s moving out, too.”

Mr. Bush then referred to scandals that have dogged the campaigns of the two remaining Democratic candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, to explain their absence: “Hillary Clinton couldn’t get in because of sniper fire, and Senator Obama’s at church.”

During the continuing campaign, Mrs. Clinton mistakenly claimed to have landed under sniper fire in Bosnia as first lady. Mr. Obama’s longtime Chicago pastor has been criticized for racist and anti-American comments.

The president admitted to being “a little wistful” in his final appearance at the dinner, showing video clips of his routines from previous years. He finished by conducting the U.S. Marine Band in a medley of patriotic marches.

Mr. Bush was followed by Craig Ferguson, the host of CBS’ “The Late Late Show.”

The Scottish-born Mr. Ferguson found middle ground between the tepid impersonations of entertainer Rich Little last year and the merciless satire that Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert delivered in 2006.

Mr. Ferguson, who became a U.S. citizen in February, asked Mr. Bush what he was going to do after leaving office, then suggested, “You could look for a job with more vacation time.” The president has drawn criticism for the amount of time he has spent away from the White House during his presidency.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Ferguson said, “is already moving out of his residence. It takes longer than you think to pack up an entire dungeon.”

The guest list for the dinner included plenty of VIPs from outside the Beltway: Actors Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, John Cusack, Pamela Anderson and Claire Danes, singers Ashlee Simpson and the Jonas Brothers and author Salman Rushdie were among the invitees. Washington’s power elite was still well-represented, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in attendance.

The White House Correspondents’ Association was formed in 1914 as a liaison between the press and the president. Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the dinner.

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