10:05 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. Please have a seat. Thank you so much. What a beautiful evening. Everybody looks wonderful. It’s like Downton Abbey, except less funny. (Laughter.) This is my third appearance at this dinner as President. And I predict you will laugh harder than ever. I’m not saying I’m any funnier. I’m saying weed is now legal in D.C. (Laughter and applause.) I know that’s how you guys are getting through this dinner. That’s why you ate the food. (Laughter.)
This is also my first gridiron with a new press secretary, Josh Earnest, who’s doing a great job. (Applause.) The other day, Josh came into the Oval and he said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that people are finally rallying around their charismatic African-American president. The bad news — it’s Clarence Page.” (Laughter.)
Clarence and I go way back.
MR. PAGE: Way back.
THE PRESIDENT: Way back. Before he took office, he felt comfortable asking me for tips on a being a successful black president. (Laughter.) And I told him, you want to keep your birth certificate handy. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, let’s face it, being President does age you. I mean, look at me. (Laughter.) I was hoping Fred Thompson would be the Republican speaker so I could buy a reverse mortgage. (Laughter and applause.) You start getting crankier as you get older. Next week, I’m signing an executive order to get off my lawn. (Laughter.) And getting older changes you. For example, coffee really disagrees with me these days — which is why John Boehner just invited coffee to address the joint House. (Laughter.)
It is amazing, though, how time flies. Just a few years ago, I could never imagine ever being in my fifties. And when it comes to my approval ratings, I still can’t. (Laughter.) I mean, think about how things have changed since 2008. Back then, I was the young, tech-savvy candidate of the future. Now I’m yesterday’s news and Hillary has got a server in her house. (Laughter.) I didn’t even know you could have one of those in your house. (Laughter and applause.) I am so far behind. Did you know that? I would have gotten one.
On the bright side, by the time I’m done with this job, I will finally have enough life experience for a memoir. (Laughter.)
My Vice President isn’t here tonight. He told me, “If I want to hear people talking for five hours straight, I’ll just stay home alone.” (Laughter.) And, by the way, this is just a quick aside — Joe rubs my shoulders too. (Laughter.) I just wanted everybody to know. He does. It’s not bad, it feels pretty good. I don’t let him give me a pedicure, but — (laughter.)
Of course, I want to acknowledge my fellow speakers tonight. Give it up for Terry McAuliffe — (applause) — the Governor of Virginia and the mayor of “This Town.” Terry loves fundraising. He’s the first person who’s actually been upset to learn you can’t ask people for tons of money once you become the Governor of Virginia. Well, except maybe the previous Governor of Virginia. (Laughter.)
I also want to congratulate Scott Walker. He did a great job tonight. Give it up for him. (Applause.) Governor Perry, don’t you think he did a great job tonight? I noticed you weren’t clapping that much.
This lame duck stuff is fun. (Laughter.)
Despite a great performance tonight, Scott has had a few recent stumbles. The other week he said he didn’t know whether or not I was a Christian. And I was taken aback, but fortunately my faith teaches us forgiveness. So, Governor Walker, as-salamu alaykum. (Laughter and applause.)
Scott also recently punted on a question of evolution, which I do think is a problem. I absolutely believe in the theory of evolution — when it comes to gay marriage.
And, finally, Governor Walker got some heat for staying silent when Rudy Giuliani said I don’t love America — which I also think is a problem. Think about it, Scott — if I did not love America, I wouldn’t have moved here from Kenya. (Laughter and applause.) Still trying to deal with the overstaying the visa thing. But hopefully the court is okay with the immigration initiatives.
Governors Walker and Perry are not the only possible 2016-ers here tonight. We also have Dr. Ben Carson. He wants to make it clear that being here was a choice. The fact is, Doctor, embracing homosexuality is not something you do because you go to prison. It’s something you do because your Vice President can’t keep a secret on “Meet the Press.” (Laughter.)
But for all the gaffes, all the slip-ups, I think 2016 will come down to the issues. For example, equal pay. Did you know that the average male presidential candidate earns $150,000 less per speech than a woman doing the same job? (Laughter.) It’s terrible. We got to fix that.
And we can’t just focus on 2016, people. We just had an election. This new Congress is just getting started, which is why I want to acknowledge the leader of the House Republicans — as soon as I figure out who that is. (Laughter.)
The fact is, I really genuinely like John Boehner. But from your press reports, I gather he may be in real trouble. Over the past several weeks, many of you have been writing about a possible conservative coup — or as Bill O’Reilly calls it, “reporting from the war zone.” He’s been sniffing around. The good news is, Bill has an eyewitness who can back up some of his claims. The bad news, of course, is that it’s Brian Williams.
And as much as I like to make fun of my friends in the GOP and the media, it’s not like this is an easy time to be a Democrat. They’re turning last year’s midterms into a movie; it’s called “50 Shades of Red.”
But, as was noted, we are determined to bounce back. The Democratic Party recently analyzed the midterm elections, and concluded we have to spend more time focused on older white voters — which is why I’m here. (Laughter and applause.)
Staying focused, moving forward — it’s not always easy in this climate. I mean, you guys are always picking us apart. Recently, I made some comments about the Crusades, and people started blowing it all out of proportion, scrutinizing every single word. What is this, the Spanish Inquisition? (Laughter.)
And then I got flak for appearing on a video for BuzzFeed, trying to reach younger voters. What nonsense. You know, you don’t diminish your office by taking a selfie. You do it by sending a poorly written letter to Iran. (Laughter and applause.) Really, that wasn’t a joke.
Now, as with everyone else, I want to end the night by saying something a little more serious. We are producing and consuming news in ways that we couldn’t have imagined a few years ago, let alone a few decades ago. But I believe that having access to more information than ever hasn’t diminished people’s hunger for understanding that news, and processing it. And they want to see an even deeper sense of what’s going on in their world because of so much change.
And as much as politicians and the press go at it sometimes, I think that without the outstanding work that so many of you do every single day, then our need for understanding will not be met and our democracy will be poor.
When there’s a crisis playing out around the world, or a milestone in our history like the one that we commemorated at Selma last week, we count on you to provide context, to see past the superficial, and in some cases, to risk everything in pursuit of the true story, and to hold us — those of us in power — to account.
So while the world of media may be changing, I am confident that our democracy will always be able to rely on the tradition represented by the reporters in this room: your persistence, your dedication, and your lifelong commitment to helping all of us better understand this world. That’s how our democracy works. And we are very grateful for the job that you do.
So thank you, God bless you. And God bless one of the many countries that I love. (Laughter and applause.) Thank you.