Clintons Make Fun At Health Reform Critics at Annual Dinner
Mar. 20, 1994
WASHINGTON (AP) _ ''Louise'' Rodham Clinton was aghast. Did you know, she asked concerned husband ''Harry'' Clinton, that under the administration health care plan ''we could get sick?''
It gets worse, the first lady told the president in a video spoof of the ''Harry and Louise'' television ads being run by opponents of the Clintons' health reform proposals.
It says on page 27,655 of the plan that ''eventually we are all going to die,'' she said. ''There's got to be a better way,'' the Clintons intoned in mock solemnity.
The Clinton video was the surprise hit Saturday night at the 109th annual Gridiron Club dinner at which journalists and the nation's political elite join in an evening of gentle fun-poking.
The president, as always, bore the brunt of the jokes running the gamut from Whitewater to health care to the firing of the White House chef.
But the first couple, joined by Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, also got in their licks, highlighted by the ''Harry and Louise'' videotape closing with the words ''Paid for by the Coalition To Scare Your Pants Off.''
Massachusetts Gov. William Weld took the best shot at Gore, saying the vice president, who has a reputation for being stiff and colorless, ''talks the way Warren Christopher looks.''
But Gore got a standing ovation by laughing at himself. A rigid vice president was wheeled into the ballroom on a dolly by two uniformed aides.
''Al Gore is so boring,'' Gore said in a monotone, ''that his Secret Service code name is Al Gore.''
Loosening up, he said, ''When people ask me what it's like to be No. 2 at the White House, I say, 'She seems to enjoy it,''' - aiming at Hillary Rodham Clinton, sitting a few feet away at the head table.
In his remarks, Clinton made a joking reference to tensions over the Whitewater controversy, saying, ''Tonight, when Hillary and I were leaving the bunker ...''
And Whitewater flowed through the journalists' songs and skits, as in the lyrics:
''When grand juries haunt you, and reporters taunt you, just relax and smile.
''When you get your court subpoena, fire your chef and butler, summon in Lloyd Cutler.''
This year's Gridiron president, Associated Press vice president and columnist Walter R. Mears, made sure the Whitewater witticisms were a bipartisan affair.
Some Republicans, Mears said, are accusing the president of a coverup in the Whitewater affair. ''No specifics; but when Republicans talk about coverups you have to take them seriously,'' Mears said in the traditional ''Speech in the Dark.'' ''They're the experts.''
But mostly it was lighter fare, or heavier menus, that drew attention.
A cast of reporters and stand-in singers examined the eating habits of the president through the eyes of the White House's famous - now fired - French chef who sings:
''Monsieur Clinton, he's got crazy taste buds ... I prepare the fine French things ... All he wants is Burger King.''
''Coq-au-vin?'' asks the chorus.
''Beeg-a-mac,'' sings the disgusted chef.
The outs, as well as the ins, were in the line of fire.
One skit featured actors portraying Texas billionaire Ross Perot and Adm. Bobby Inman, who turned down the job of defense secretary because he believed columnist William Safire and others were conspiring against him.
Inman: ''When Safire called up Robert Dole, I knew just what they said. That's because the CIA put a transplant in my head.''
Perot: ''Al Gore started trashing me; he said I was a thief. I overheard him talking through the fillings in my teeth.''