It was twice the laughs for members of the White House Correspondents’ Association and guests when President George W Bush and a look-alike, sound-alike sidekick poked fun at the president and fellow politicians.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I feel chipper tonight. I survived the White House shake-up,” the president said last night.
But impersonator Steve Bridges stole many of the best lines. Vice President Dick Cheney and his hunting accident were targets of his humour on a couple of occasions.
“Speaking of suspects, where is the great white hunter?” Bridges said, later adding: “He shot the only trial lawyer in the country who supports me.”
Bush continued a tradition begun by President Coolidge in attending the correspondents’ dinner.
He invited Bridges to play his double. The president talked to the press in polite, friendly terms, while Bridges told them what the president was really thinking.
Bridges’ opening gambit was: “The media really ticks me off – the way they try to embarrass me by not editing what I say. Well let’s get things going, or I’ll never get to bed.”
“I’m absolutely delighted to be here, as is (wife) Laura,” Bush replied.
“She’s hot,” Bridges quipped.
The featured entertainer was Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report” often lampoons the Washington establishment.
“I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq,” Colbert said in a typical dig.
He also paid mock tribute to Bush as a man who “believes Wednesday what he believed Monday, despite what happened Tuesday”.
Yet it’s the Who’s Who of power and celebrity in the audience – invited by media organisations to their dinner tables – that draws much of the attention.
Joining ABC were former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, the CIA officer at the heart of a leak investigation that has reached deep into the White House.
Others on the guest list included rapper-actor Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges; James Denton, the plumber on “Desperate Housewives”; “Dancing With the Stars” winner Drew Lachey; New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin; tennis player Anna Kournikova; and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Award winners honoured at the dinner were:
:: Deb Riechmann of The Associated Press and Terry Moran of ABC News, Merriman Smith Awards, the top journalism award for White House reporting under deadline pressure.
Riechmann was recognised for breaking the news of Bush’s choice of John Roberts for the Supreme Court. Moran was cited for his broadcast coverage of Bush’s first visit to areas hit by Hurricane Katrina.
:: Carl Cannon of the National Journal, the Aldo Beckman Award for his profile of presidential adviser Michael Gerson. The award is given for repeated excellence in White House reporting.
:: Marcus Stern and Jerry Kammer of the Copley News Service, the Edgar A. Poe Award for a series of stories on Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who resigned in disgrace and pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4m (€1.9m) in bribes. The Poe award recognises excellence in news of national and regional importance.
The association was established in 1914 as a bridge between the press corps and the White House. The current president is Mark Smith of AP Radio.