The Best & Worst Of Obama’s Final White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Photo: Susan Walsh / Associated Press.
The final White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD) of the Obama Administration had some major swings. Some hit it out of the park and others...didn’t. Obama took the microphone for the last WHCD of his presidency and he did not disappoint. With less than a year left in his presidential career, he didn't hold back on any of his political opponents — and sometimes, friends. First on the roasting spit was his one-time opponent, former secretary of state and current presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Coming on to the stage a few minutes after 10 p.m., he apologized for being a little late. “I was running on CPT, which stands for ‘jokes that white people should not make,'” he said, referencing the infamous gaffe when Clinton and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio used a racially loaded acronym as a joke. He didn’t stop there: “If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year.” Just two minutes later, he switched tunes, musing on the reality that next year, he won’t be on the stage. “Someone else will be standing here in this spot,” he said. “And it’s anyone’s guess who she will be.” He also laughed about the appeal of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, aged 74, to young voters — including his daughter Malia, who turns 18 in July and will be eligible to vote in her first election in 2016. “A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me,” Obama said. He recounted a story of a young woman who came up to him and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. “As if we were actually going to let Malia go to Burning Man this year,” he said. While dad jokes are a time-honored tradition, what everyone was really waiting for? The Trump jokes. GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump did not attend tonight’s dinner, an absence that some attributed to his roasting in 2011, when Seth Meyers made fun of his attempt at a 2012 run. “Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke," Meyers quipped at the time. Trump was clearly unamused. “Unbelievable that he’s not here tonight! We had so much fun the last time,” Obama said as he spread his hands, speculating on what Trump could possibly be doing that was better than the dinner. “Is this dinner too tacky for The Donald?” he questioned. “Is he at home eating a Trump steak? Tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel? What’s he doing?” He speculated as the crowd laughed. But ultimately, he couldn’t help taking the moment to reflect on his presidency as a whole. “I want to close my final White House Correspondents' Dinner by saying thank you,” he said, holding out the microphone at arm’s length. Then, he let go. Boom. “Obama out.”
Larry Wilmore took the podium after Obama’s mic drop, already knowing the president would be a hard act to follow. Even Wilmore gave props to Obama’s comedy, saying, "The president’s funny," he deadpanned. "Stay in your lane, man." The speech took on the tone of a roast more than the crowd of journalists was comfortable with. He took no prisoners with the media, tossing jabs at Wolf Blitzer and the struggling print media — many of whom were in the room. An extended bit referring to Ted Cruz as the Zodiac killer felt flat and the crowd shots captured a lot of really unamused faces in fancy clothes. Wilmore’s sincere gratitude to Obama’s legacy as the first Black president was moving and heartfelt, getting one of the most rousing responses from the crowd. His goodbye to the man who made history as the first Black president finally put everyone on the same side: the right side of history.

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