WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama didn't have time to join a roast of prominent officials by the journalists who cover them, cracks Vice President Joe Biden, because Obama is getting ready for Easter.
"Axelrod really wanted me to do this on teleprompter -- but I told him I'm much better when I wing it," Biden said. "I know these evenings run long, so I'm going to be brief. Talk about the audacity of hope. President Obama does send his greetings, though. He can't be here tonight -- because he's busy getting ready for Easter. He thinks it's about him."
No, that's not the reason, counters California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "He's just not that into you."
"Here you were expecting 'Yes we can,'" Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said during the festivities at a downtown hotel ballroom. "And instead what did you get? 'Hasta la vista, baby.'"
"Now let's see: we have a Republican speaker who was born in Austria, and tonight's Democratic speaker was born in Canada," Biden observed. "Folks, this is Lou Dobbs' worst nightmare."
Obama may not be the messiah or even stuck-up, but he is the first president in decades to skip the Gridiron Club dinner during his first year in office. Instead, the president spent Saturday night at Camp David with his family, missing out on the 124th annual event in which journalists use jokes and songs to skewer politicians _ a few of whom get to throw back some jabs of their own.
"I know that no president has missed his first Gridiron since Grover Cleveland," Biden added. "Of course, President Cleveland really did have better things to do on a Saturday night. When he was in the White House, he was married to a 21 year old woman."
Biden teased the press a bit too, saying, "I understand these are dark days for the newspaper business, but I hate it when people say that newspapers are obsolete. That's totally untrue. I know from firsthand experience. I recently got a puppy, and you can't housebreak a puppy on the Internet."
He also made fun of his predecessor. "You know, I never realized just how much power Dick Cheney had until my first day on the job. I walked into my office, and you know how the outgoing president always leaves the incoming president a note in his desk? I opened my drawer and Dick Cheney had left me Barack Obama's birth certificate."
And Biden even poked fun at himself. "I'd like to address some of the things I said: Like when I said that 'JOBS' is a three-letter word. I did say that. But I didn't mean it literally. It's like how, right now, most people think AIG is a four-letter word," he said. "Or when I announced our stimulus package website, I was asked how you get to it: All I said was I didn't know the website number. What I really meant to say was, 'Ted Stevens didn't tell me what tube the website is in.'"
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said that former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, "really set back the cause of hot governors."
Then, with an eye on Pennsylvania's chief executive, Granholm added: "You know where I'm coming from, Ed Rendell."
The Democrat also took a shot at Schwarzenegger, asking which of his movies best prepared him to deal with the GOP: "True Lies" or "Kindergarten Cop"?
Much of the evening's dark humor focused on the financial crisis.
Biden said that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in attendance for the event, is "always there when you need money, no questions asked."
In a send-up of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an impersonator sang "Imperial Girl" to the tune of Madonna's "Material Girl."
The journalists-turned-entertainers, wearing silly costumes and accompanied by the United States Marine Band, also took a few final swipes at the previous administration.
A spoof of former Vice President Dick Cheney set to the tune of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" made fun of Cheney's dominant role in George W. Bush's White House. The Cheney mimic sang, "I pulled the strings, he said the words ... he did it my way."