- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2014

The botched Obamacare health care website, the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 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 comedian Joel McHale as they poked fun at everything from the beleaguered Obamacare launch to GOP House Speaker John Boehner’s skin tone and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s waistline.

“That could have gone better,” the president said of ill-fated Healthcare.gov launch. “In 2008 my slogan was ‘Yes we can.’ In 2013 it was ‘Control, alt, delete.’ “

Mr. McHale, a star of the E! cable network, pointed out it was hard to quantify how terrible a launch the site really had because, “The website is now what they use to describe other bad things.”

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 health insurance site she oversaw was 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 Mr. Obama’s remarks, 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 House Minority Leader 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 to promote Obamacare.

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

Of Mr. Bundy, the president said, “As a general rule, things don’t end well if the sentence starts with, ‘Let me tell you something about the Negro…’ Just a tip for you: Don’t start your sentence that way.”

He also expressed mock sympathy for Mr. Boehner’s struggle to keep his restive conservative colleagues in line, noting the speaker’s famously tanned complexion.

“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 also stars on the NBC show “Community,” took shots at the health care site, as well as politicians and various news outlets who had purchased tables in the cavernous ballroom.

“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’s Mr. Christie received shots for his Bridgegate scandal woes and his weight.

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 him 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 newsperson 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 “star-struck” 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 actors 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 Abdul-Jabbar had many necks craning for his attention.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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