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Obama joins in jokefest at Washington dinner

March 15, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — Getting older changes a guy, President Barack Obama says, and he admits he’s getting crankier.

“Next week I’m signing an executive order to get off my lawn,” Obama joked Saturday night at the Gridiron Club and Foundation’s dinner, an annual rite where Washington’s establishment figures get to see the commander-in-chief loosen up.

Obama’s standup routine drew laughs from the audience of more than 650 journalists, lawmakers, administration officials, military officials and others at the Gridiron’s 130th gathering. By tradition, Washington insiders put aside their differences for an evening of laughter, schmoozing and charity fundraising.

With the president providing the gibes on behalf of his administration, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe sharpened their wits for the Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Walker is considering a run for the Republican nomination for president while McAuliffe’s political connections extend to his work as Democratic Party chairman and Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton ally.

Obama targeted himself — “Just a few years ago I couldn’t imagine being in my 50s. Given my approval ratings, I still can’t” — as well as people in the government and the media that cover it.

Noting that Walker remarked recently that he couldn’t say whether Obama was a Christian, the president said his religion taught forgiveness and cracked, “So, Gov. Walker, salaam alaikum.”

McAuliffe joined others in needling the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton. “If Hillary decides not to run ... I decided not to finish that joke,” he said.

The Gridiron Club and Foundation, founded in 1885, has drawn every president after Grover Cleveland to its annual dinner at least once. Obama made his third appearance, having attended in 2011 and 2013.

An early script for the evening’s musical send-ups included a jab at Republicans preparing presidential campaigns, sung to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain” from “The Wizard of Oz.” One stanza singled out former Texas Gov. Rick Perry: “He’d be talking to reporters, ‘bout walling up the borders/ It’d be a fine campaign./And his head he’d be scratchin’ while his thoughts were busy hatchin’/If he only had a brain.”

Active membership in the Gridiron Club and Foundation is limited to 65 journalists based in Washington. Money raised through the dinner goes to college scholarships and journalism organizations.

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