Bush in jovial mood at farewell press dinner

US PRESIDENT George W Bush poked fun at his potential successors on Saturday night, expressing surprise that none of them were in the audience at the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner.

“Senator McCain’s not here,” Bush said of GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain. “He probably wanted to distance himself from me a little bit. You know, he’s not alone. Jenna’s moving out too.”

Bush then referred to scandals that have dogged the campaigns of the two remaining Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, in explaining their absence: “Hillary Clinton couldn’t get in because of sniper fire and Senator Obama’s at church.”

During the ongoing campaign, Clinton mistakenly claimed to have landed under sniper fire in Bosnia as first lady. Obama’s longtime Chicago pastor has been criticized for his negative comments about America.

The President admitted to being “a little wistful” in his final appearance at the dinner, showing video clips of his routines from previous years. He finished by conducting the US Marine Band in a medley of patriotic marches.

Bush was followed by Craig Ferguson, the host of CBS’ Late Late Show.

The Scottish-born Ferguson found middle ground between the tepid impersonations of last year’s entertainer, Rich Little, and the merciless satire that Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert delivered in 2006.

Ferguson, who became a US citizen in February, asked Bush what he was going to do after leaving office, and then suggested, “You could look for a job with more vacation time.” The president has drawn criticism for the amount of time he has spent away from the White House during his presidency.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Ferguson said, “is already moving out of his residence. It takes longer than you think to pack up an entire dungeon.”

During the event, the White House Correspondents’ Association presented its annual awards, announced earlier this month.

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