Journalists, celebrities, and political bigwigs converged in Washington, D.C. Saturday night for the 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner, laughing along as President Obama and comedian Conan O'Brien took the stage to skewer a host of ripe targets in Washington, Hollywood, and beyond.
The president kicked off the roasting with a bit of self-deprecating humor, describing how the presidency has aged him: "I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I'm not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be."
"Time passes, get a little gray, and yet, even after all this time, I still make rookie mistakes," he said. "Like, I'm out in California at a fundraiser, having a nice time, I happen to mention that [California Attorney General] Kamala Harris is the best looking attorney general in the country. As you might imagine, I got in trouble when I got back home. Who knew [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder was so sensitive?"
The president also directed a few barbs at the media. "I know CNN has taken some knocks recently," he said, "but I admire their commitment to cover all sides of the story, just in case one of them happens to be accurate."
In the wake of the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, CNN was lambasted for incorrectly reporting that a suspect had been arrested when no such arrest had yet been made.
"The media landscape is changing so rapidly, you can't keep up with it," the president said, "I remember when [popular viral content website] Buzzfeed was just something I did in college around 2 a.m."
Despite his teasing, the president insisted, "I really do respect the press. I recognize that the press and I have different jobs to do. My job is to be president, your job is to keep me humble."
"Frankly I think I'm doing my job better," Mr. Obama joked.
The president also took aim at some of his Republican opponents. "I know Republicans are still sorting out what happened in 2012, but one thing they all agree on is they all need to do a better job of reaching out to minorities," he said.
"And look, call me self-centered, but I can think of one minority they can start with," he said, as he raised his hand. "Think of me as a trial run, you know? See how it goes."
He also poked fun at his recent "charm offensive," which has seen the president wining and dining with GOP lawmakers. "Recently I had dinner...with a number of the Republican senators," he said, "and I'll admit it wasn't easy. I proposed a toast. It died in committee."
Despite that setback, he said, "I am not giving up. In fact, I'm taking my charm offensive on the road. A Texas barbecue with [Sen.] Ted Cruz. A Kentucky bluegrass concert with [Sen.] Rand Paul. And a book burning with [Minnesota Rep.] Michele Bachmann."
He also poked fun at Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential contender. "The guy has not even finished a single term in the Senate and he thinks he's ready to be president," Mr. Obama said. "Kids these days."
The evening wasn't all levity, however -- the dinner took place in the shadow of tragedy, less than two weeks after two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring over 250, and after a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas killed 14 and injured roughly 200 just two days after the terror in Boston.
President Obama's remarks took a somber turn at their conclusion as he asked the audience to remember the victims of the dual tragedies.
"These have been some very hard days for too many of our citizens. Even as we gather here tonight, our thoughts are not far from the people of Boston and the people of West, Texas. There are families in the Midwest who are coping with some terrible floods," he said. "So we've had some difficult days. But even when the days seem darkest, we have seen humanity shine at its brightest. We've seen first responders and national guardsmen who dashed into danger; law enforcement officers who live their oath to serve and protect; and everyday Americans who are opening their homes and hearts to perfect strangers."
"These men and women should inspire all of us in this room to live up to those same standards, to do our jobs with the same fidelity and the same integrity and the same sense of purpose and the same love of country," the president said. "Because if we're only focused on profits or ratings or polls, then we're contributing to the cynicism that so many people feel right now."
"Those of us in this room tonight, we are incredibly lucky," Mr. Obama remarked. "And the fact is we can do better -- all of us."