A President's Duty at Reporters' Dinner: Joking Whatever else may be distracting official Washington, the springtime tuxedo dinners must go on. And a president must make jokes at his own expense. Wednesday night at the Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner, President Bush and his staff made sure they obliged.

A President's Duty at Reporters' Dinner: Joking

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President Bush is having a tough time lately. His administration is mired in low approval ratings, an unpopular war and a controversy over the firings of U.S. attorneys. But the president played the role of good sport last night, roasting himself at the annual Washington dinner hosted by the Radio and Television Correspondents Association.

NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA: Ah, springtime in Washington. The cherry blossoms are popping, and the president puts on a tux and delivers a ritualistic self-hazing comedy routine.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, where should I start? A year ago, my approval rating was in the thirties, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my vice president had shot someone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GONYEA: The president then added...

President BUSH: Ah, those were the good old days.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GONYEA: Mr. Bush also weighed in on more recent events in Washington.

President BUSH: You in the press certainly have had a lot to report lately. Take the current controversy. I have to admit we really blew the way we let those attorneys go. You know you've botched it when people sympathize with lawyers.

(Soundbite of applause)

GONYEA: And he took a few pot shots at Democrats.

President BUSH: By the way, I'm not sure whether or not Senator Obama was here. Last I heard, he was not coming to the Radio and TV Correspondents dinner -not enough press.

GONYEA: But ultimately, Mr. Bush's act was trumped by one featuring his top political aide. Karl Rove was pulled on stage by the professional comics hired for the night, the cast of the cable TV show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" Together, Rove and his enablers performed an improvised rap song. You know those embarrassingly awkward early rounds of "American Idol"?

Unidentified Man: (Rapping) You were such a helpful treasure trove. Tell me, what's your name?

Mr. KARL ROVE (Deputy White House Chief of Staff): (Rapping) M.C. Rove.

Unidentified Man: (Rapping) To see him later hanging in the cove, tell me what is your name?

Mr. ROVE: (Rapping) M.C. Rove.

Unidentified Man: (Rapping) Doing it right, and he really strove, one more time, what's your name?

Mr. ROVE: (Rapping) M.C. Rove.

Unidentified Man: (Rapping) Give it up for M.C. Rove in the house.

(Soundbite of applause)

GONYEA: Now, the evening did have a serious side. The children of the late NBC News Iraq war correspondent David Bloom were there. Also in the audience was former ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, who's back on the job though still recovering from serious wounds suffered in Iraq.

The president noted the absence of Press Secretary Tony Snow, who learned just days ago that cancer Snow thought he'd beaten is back. And Mr. Bush offered support for Elizabeth Edwards, whose own cancer has returned.

President BUSH: And so to Bob Woodruff, the Bloom girls, Elizabeth Edwards, Tony Snow and of course our men and women in uniform, Laura and I and millions of other Americans are praying for you and your families. May God bless you, and thank you very much.

(Soundbite of applause)

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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