"A year ago my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone," Mr. Bush said at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner Wednesday.
"Ah," he said, "those were the good ol' days."
"That really kind of sums up where this president is right now," CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said on CBS News' The Early Show.
The president thanked the association for providing the dinner, "and I'd like to thank Senator Webb for providing security."
Virginia's new Democratic senator, Jim Webb, had to explain this week as he tried to enter a Capitol complex building.
Noting that Vice President Dick Cheney was not in attendance at the event at a Washington hotel, President Bush said: "He's had a rough few weeks. To be honest, his feelings were kind of hurt. He said he was going on vacation to Afghanistan, where people like him."
Cheney's recent trip to Afghanistan was marked by a bombing near where he was meeting with officials.
On the controversy over the Justice Department's firing of eight federal prosecutors, Mr. Bush said: "I have to admit we really blew the way we let those attorneys go. You know you've botched it when people sympathize with lawyers."
Acknowledging Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the head table, the president said some had wondered how he'd get along with her. "Some say she's bossy, she's opinionated, she's not to be crossed," he said. "Hey, I get along with my mother."
Looking ahead to life after leaving the White House, Mr. Bush said he might follow President Bill Clinton's lead and produce a memoir.
"I'm thinking of something really fun and creative for mine," he said. "You know, maybe a pop-up book."
Possible titles: "How W. Got His Groove Back," "Who Moved My Presidency?" and "Tuesday with Cheney."
Mr. Bush noted that another person missing from the audience of broadcast journalists was Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat running for president.
"Not enough press," the president cracked.
But there was an undercurrent amid the jokes.
"I'd call it 'a bittersweet night,'" says CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer. "The emotional presence of the late David Bloom's young daughters to help present an award named for their dad provoked many tears among his colleagues. Also hanging over the dinner and a major topic of conversation: the absence of the ," the White House press secretary.
On April 6, 2003, David Bloom, 39, an American journalist for NBC television, embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, near Baghdad.
Comics from the TV show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" provided the professional humor. Among other things, they persuaded Bush political adviser Karl Rove to participate in an improvised rap song.
The black-tie dinner, the group's 63rd annual gathering of journalists, politicians and their guests, features political and topical humor.