Watch Donald Trump react to the commander-in-chief's digs at his would-be 2012 GOP rivals, birthers, and "The Donald"
Freud posited that humor is a mechanism for articulating what society represses, and boy did President Obama have fun with the usually unsaid at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton hotel last night. His remarks tweaking his Republican rivals and the smears and rumors he has face about his birthplace were hilarious and biting -- and allowed the president the rare pleasure of being able to smear back and talk smack in return.
Obama's presentation at the dinner, the association's 97th, began with a video that could have been produced by Tim Pawlenty's exploratory campaign or "The Colbert Report" it was so theatrically patriotic. Set to the tune of Rick Derringer's 1985 "I am a real American" -- a song produced for the WWF's "The Wrestling Album" that went on to become Hulk Hogan's signature -- the video alternated thumping pictures of Obama's long-form Hawaiian birth certificate with images of eagles, monster trucks, sports heroes and iconic images of fictional American fighters such as Rocky and the Karate Kid.
And that set the tone for the evening, where birther jokes and jokes at the expense of birther Donald Trump, who let a pained smirk slip into at least one full smile while seated at the central table of The Washington Post during the president's speech, predominated.
It was the first of three videos the White House presented at the dinner. "Tonight, for the first time, I am releasing my official birth video," the president set up his second clip, the scene of the birth of Simba the lion in the 1994 Disney animated cartoon "The Lion King."
Amusing, because of course the movie takes place in a Disneyfied version of a Kenyan national park, but also because in the scene where the newborn cub is lifted to the heavens they part and the light streams down in precisely the manner Hillary Clinton once mocked as the attitude of Obama supporters, saying in 2008, "Now I could stand up here and say, let's get everybody together, let's get unified the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing."
As Obama himself noted in the speech, "when it comes to my presidency, the honeymoon is over."
The president also took some real swipes at his potential rivals with a series of how do you like them apples jokes. "Michele Bachmann is here, though, I understand, and she is thinking about running for President, which is weird because I hear she was born in Canada," he quipped. "Yes, Michele, this is how it starts."
To Tim Pawlenty: "He seems all American. But have you heard his real middle name? Tim 'Hosni' Pawlenty? What a shame."
Of "My buddy, our outstanding ambassador, Jon Huntsman": "Now, there's something you might not know about Jon. He didn't learn to speak Chinese to go there. Oh no. He learned English to come here."
And then there was Trump. "No one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald," Obama said. "And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter -- like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?"
The third video, below, had some fun at the expense of Joe "Say Anything" Biden and the president's own reliance on the teleprompter.
Obama's full remarks follow:
All right, everybody, please have a seat. (Applause.)
My fellow Americans. (Laughter and applause.) Mahalo! (Laughter.) It is wonderful to be here at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. What a week. (Laughter.) As some of you heard, the state of Hawaii released my official long-form birth certificate. (Applause.)
Hopefully this puts all doubts to rest. But just in case there are any lingering questions, tonight I'm prepared to go a step further. (Laughter.) Tonight, for the first time, I am releasing my official birth video. (Laughter.)
Now, I warn you -- (laughter) -- no one has seen this footage in 50 years, not even me. But let's take a look.
("Secret Birth Video" plays.) (Applause.)
Oh, well. Back to square one. (Laughter.) I want to make clear to the Fox News table: That was a joke. (Laughter.) That was not my real birth video. (Laughter.) That was a children's cartoon. (Laughter.) Call Disney if you don't believe me. (Laughter.) They have the original long-form version. (Laughter.)
Anyway, it's good to be back with so many esteemed guests. Celebrities. Senators. Journalists. Essential government employees. (Laughter.) Non-essential government employees. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.)
I am very much looking forward to hearing Seth Meyers tonight. (Applause.) He's a young, fresh face who can do no wrong in the eyes of his fans. Seth, enjoy it while it lasts. (Laughter.)
Yes, I think it is fair to say that when it comes to my presidency, the honeymoon is over. (Laughter.) For example, some people now suggest that I'm too professorial. And I'd like to address that head-on, by assigning all of you some reading that will help you draw your own conclusions. (Laughter.) Others say that I'm arrogant. But I've found a really great self-help tool for this: my poll numbers. (Laughter.)
I've even let down my key core constituency: movie stars. Just the other day, Matt Damon -- I love Matt Damon, love the guy -- Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance. Well, Matt, I just saw "The Adjustment Bureau," so -- (laughter) -- right back atcha, buddy. (Laughter and applause.)
Of course, there's someone who I can always count on for support: my wonderful wife Michelle. (Applause.) We made a terrific team at the Easter Egg Roll this week. I'd give out bags of candy to the kids, and she'd snatch them right back out of their little hands. (Laughter.) Snatched them. (Laughter.)
And where is the National Public Radio table? (Cheering.) You guys are still here? (Laughter.) That's good. I couldn't remember where we landed on that. (Laughter.) Now, I know you were a little tense when the GOP tried to cut your funding, but personally I was looking forward to new programming like "No Things Considered" -- (laughter) -- or "Wait, Wait...Don't Fund Me." (Laughter.)
Of course, the deficit is a serious issue. That's why Paul Ryan couldn't be here tonight. His budget has no room for laughter. (Laughter.)
Michele Bachmann is here, though, I understand, and she is thinking about running for President, which is weird because I hear she was born in Canada. (Laughter.) Yes, Michele, this is how it starts. (Laughter.) Just letting you know. (Laughter and applause.)
Tim Pawlenty? He seems all American. But have you heard his real middle name? Tim "Hosni" Pawlenty? (Laughter.) What a shame. (Laughter.)
My buddy, our outstanding ambassador, Jon Huntsman, is with us. Now, there's something you might not know about Jon. He didn't learn to speak Chinese to go there. Oh no. (Laughter.) He learned English to come here. (Laughter and applause.)
And then there's a vicious rumor floating around that I think could really hurt Mitt Romney. I heard he passed universal health care when he was governor of Massachusetts. (Laughter.) Someone should get to the bottom of that.
And I know just the guy to do it -- Donald Trump is here tonight! (Laughter and applause.) Now, I know that he's taken some flak lately, but no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. (Laughter.) And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter -- like, did we fake the moon landing? (Laughter.) What really happened in Roswell? (Laughter.) And where are Biggie and Tupac? (Laughter and applause.)
But all kidding aside, obviously, we all know about your credentials and breadth of experience. (Laughter.) For example -- no, seriously, just recently, in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice -- (laughter) -- at the steakhouse, the men's cooking team cooking did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. And there was a lot of blame to go around. But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately, you didn't blame Lil' Jon or Meatloaf. (Laughter.) You fired Gary Busey. (Laughter.) And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night. (Laughter and applause.) Well handled, sir. (Laughter.) Well handled.
Say what you will about Mr. Trump, he certainly would bring some change to the White House. Let's see what we've got up there. (Laughter.)
(Screens show "Trump White House Resort and Casino.")
So, yes, this has been quite a year in politics, but also in the movies. Many people, for instance, were inspired by the King's Speech. It's a wonderful film. (Applause.) Well, some of you may not know this, but there's now a sequel in the works that touches close to home. And because this is a Hollywood crowd, tonight I can offer a sneak peek. So can we show the trailer, please?
(The parody trailer plays.) (Applause.)
Coming to a theater near you. (Applause.)
Let me close on a serious note. We are having a good time, but as has been true for the last several years, we have incredible young men and women who are serving in uniform overseas in the most extraordinary of circumstances. (Applause.) And we are reminded of their courage and their valor. (Applause.)
We also need to remember our neighbors in Alabama and across the South that have been devastated by terrible storms from last week. (Applause.) Michelle and I were down there yesterday, and we've spent a lot of time with some of the folks who have been affected. The devastation is unimaginable and is heartbreaking and it's going to be a long road back. And so we need to keep those Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers. But we also need to stand with them in the hard months and perhaps years to come.
I intend to make sure that the federal government does that. And I've got faith that the journalists in this room will do their part for the people who have been affected by this disaster -- by reporting on their progress, and letting the rest of America know when they will need more help. Those are stories that need telling. And that's what all of you do best, whether it's rushing to the site of a devastating storm in Alabama, or braving danger to cover a revolution in the Middle East.
You know, in the last months, we've seen journalists threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable. And through it all, we've seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth.
That's what you do. At your best that's what journalism is. That's the principle that you uphold. It is always important, but it's especially important in times of challenge, like the moment that America and the world is facing now.
So I thank you for your service and the contributions that you make. And I want to close by recognizing not only your service, but also to remember those that have been lost as a consequence of the extraordinary reporting that they've done over recent weeks. They help, too, to defend our freedoms and allow democracy to flourish.
God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)