By Nikki Schwab and Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
The annual press-politics party weekend is over, but Whispers isn't done until we call attention to a few of the highlights, starting with President Obama's well-received Leno-ish monologue at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner Saturday night. Unlike past presidents, who focused on themselves, controversial policies, or the press, Obama barked out a series of one-liners mostly aimed at his staff and even his kids when he joked that they have been grounded for taking "Air Force One on a joy ride to Manhattan." It revealed, said a top aide, "the kind of confidence you'd see in a tightknit family or even a locker room with him. Not everybody would make fun of their people like that in public."
He did, of course, take swipes at his foes like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and even Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele. Taking aim at Steele's hip-hop image, Obama said: "Michael Steele is in the house tonight. Or, as he would say, 'in the heezy.' Wassup? Where is Michael? Michael, for the last time, the Republican Party does not qualify for a bailout. Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset. I'm sorry."
So how did Steele react? "It was much love between brothers," says Steele, who said he simply appreciated a presidential shout-out.
In fact, a lot of Republicans gave Obama kudos for his performance. "He was wonderful," said Pat Buchanan. The TV commentator missed the Saturday dinner because he was covering it for MSNBC. He liked Obama's stand-up routine so much that he called his wife in the middle of it to tell her what a ham the president was. "He's Jack Kennedy," the conservative commentator added.
What was most notable about Saturday's dinner compared to any in the past was the number of Hollywood actors and executives invited by the media. In one corner, for example, we watched as directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg walked by. Tyra Banks, sporting her skinny look, was everywhere, and Jon Bon Jovi stopped by for a chat and a picture. The list goes on and on, to include Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Glenn Close, Owen Wilson, Whoopi Goldberg, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, and about 300 others.
Then there were the political stars like Todd Palin, who appeared nonchalant, and Meghan McCain, who didn't flinch when her dad was assailed in the jokes by comic Wanda Sykes.
When Sykes had finished her routine and it was all over, some of the 2,500 attendees—including White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel—made their way to the Capitol File party. That list included Ludacris, stock guy Jim Cramer, actor Tim Daly, American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi, Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, actress Eva Longoria Parker, and a bunch more.
And even though most of the festivities took place on Saturday, anyone at D.C. Improv Friday night heard a test run of Sykes's routine because she made a surprise appearance and went through what seemed like every single joke she would tell Saturday, including her rap on Obama's nipples and Limbaugh's past drug addiction.
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