THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT RADIO AND TELEVISION CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION DINNER
June 19, 2009
Washington Convention Center
8:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you very much. Thanks to all of you. Please, everybody, have a seat. Before I get started, as the father of two girls, can I just say how incredibly impressive those three young ladies were. (Applause.) Dad would be proud.
To Heather and all the others who have made this evening possible, thank you so much. It is wonderful to be here.
I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to tell jokes that weren’t funny enough for me to use when we did this five weeks ago. (Laughter.) Whatever. (Laughter.) The jokes may not be as good, but neither is the guest list. (Laughter.) I'm just joking. For me, there's no contest. Why bother hanging out with celebrities when I can spend time with the people who made me one? (Laughter.) I know where my bread is buttered.
Plus, we have our own luminaries here in attendance. The junior senator from Wyoming, John Barasso, is here. (Applause.) I'm sorry, John Barasso skipped this evening. (Laughter.) Let me tell you, though, for those who haven’t met him, John Barasso is the George Clooney of junior senators from Wyoming. (Laughter.)
It is great to be here with so much talent from the world of TV and radio. Despite the flood of new media, I think your programming is more relevant than ever before. At least, that’s the impression I get when I read the blogs every day. (Laughter.)
It's good to see a number of hardworking correspondents here tonight. Journalists like Chuck Todd. I think I spotted Chuck over there somewhere. (Applause.) At this dinner, Chuck embodies the best of both worlds: He has the rapid-fire style of a television correspondent, and the facial hair of a radio correspondent. (Laughter.)
Mika Brzezinski is here, I believe, in the house. (Applause.) Mika and I have a lot in common. We both have partners named Joe who used to be in Congress and don’t know when to stop talking. (Laughter.)
And happening now: Wolf Blitzer is here. (Applause.) He’s the only man -- the only other man in America with his own Situation Room. (Laughter.) People assume that mine is cooler, but this is not the case. As hard as we’ve tried, we have not been able to generate the bandwidth necessary to turn Larry Summers into a hologram. (Laughter.) We can't do it.
Now, one person that you know could not be here tonight is Secretary Hillary Clinton. As most of you know, Hillary broke her elbow a few days ago on her way to the White House. And we all wish her a very speedy recovery. I do have to say, though, that while it’s been reported as an accident, there were some suspicious. (Laughter.) Just before the incident, Secret Service spotted Richard Holbrooke spraying WD-40 -- (laughter) -- all over the driveway. (Laughter.)
So now, on top of the costs of health care and energy and the recovery plan, we’ve got another fiscal problem. Fortunately, the lawyers tell me that Hillary is ready to settle. (Laughter.)
I have to admit, though, it wasn’t easy coming up with fresh material for this dinner. A few nights ago, I was up tossing and turning, trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally, when I couldn’t get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, the truth is, Brian Williams is actually a terrible house guest. He put an empty milk carton back in the fridge. He leaves his wet towels all over the Roosevelt Room. We’re pretty sure he clogged the toilet and didn’t tell anybody. (Laughter.)
Although I must say, the whole thing was worth it. "Inside the Obama White House" is my favorite new show. (Laughter.) There’s just something really compelling about the main character. (Laughter.) It's wonderful narrative. In fact, the show has been such a hit that all of you guys now want to come and tape one in my house. ABC is planning a series called "Dancing with the Czars." (Laughter.) TLC has got something called "John & Kate plus Peter Orszag." (Laughter.) That's going to be good. (Laughter.) Nick at Nite has a new take on an old classic, "Leave it to Uigurs." I thought that was pretty good. (Laughter.)
Of course, given the fiscal crisis in California, these shows all will be competing directly with Governor Schwarzenegger’s new reality series, "I’m a Celebrity -- Get Me Out of Here!" (Laughter and applause.) That's how I feel tonight. (Laughter.)
Look, it’s nothing personal, but this dinner conflicts with my date night. (Laughter.) I was supposed to be going out with Michelle for Thai food. In Bangkok. (Laughter and applause.)
But I have been doing a lot of traveling. I just returned from a trip abroad, as you know. In Egypt, we had the opportunity to tour the Pyramids. By now I’m sure all of you have seen the pictures of Rahm on a camel. I admit I was a little nervous about the whole situation. I said at the time, "This is a wild animal known to bite and kick and spit. And who knows what the camel might do?" (Laughter.)
But I have to say, as I traveled to all these countries, I saw firsthand how much people truly have in common with one another. Because no matter where I went, there’s one thing I heard over and over again from every world leader:
"No thanks, but have you considered Palau?" (Laughter.)
Of course, most of my attention has been focused here back home. As you know, we’ve been working around the clock to repair our major financial institutions and our auto companies. But you probably wouldn’t understand the concept of troubled industries, working as you do in the radio and television.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh -- we don't joke about that, huh? (Laughter.) That's not funny. (Laughter.)
One problem we’re trying to solve is the high cost of health care in America. And I’m pleased that in our quest to reform the health care system I've gained the support of the American Medical Association. It proves true the old expression that it’s easier to catch flies with honey. And if honey doesn’t work, feel free to use an open palm and a swift, downward movement. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, the challenges we face are many, and I’ll be honest -- I don’t have all the answers. And when I’m not sure what’s right, I often ask myself, "WWLD?" What would a wise Latino do? I’m proud of my nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. (Applause.) And all those who oppose her, to all those who say that there's no place for empathy on the bench, I say this: I completely understand how you’re feeling. (Laughter.) When you’re upset, I’m upset. (Laughter.)
Another difficult challenge is how to help our automakers thrive in the 21st century. We’ve tried a number of different approaches, and tonight, I’m announcing a new one. It’s a plan passed on to me by a close friend and advisor, Oprah Winfrey. So if each of you will look under your seat, you find that -- (laughter) -- you get a car company! (Laughter.) You get a car company! And FOX -- you get AIG. (Laughter.) Enjoy!
The truth is, as I’ve said all along, I have no ambition to run an auto company. I'm not the salesman-in-chief. And GM will rise or fall on the quality of its products -- like the taut, athletic design of the new Buick Enclave. (Laughter.) It’s French-seamed leather and warm wood tones make the Enclave more than transportation. (Applause.) It's a modern driver's retreat. (Laughter.) Come on, work with me here. I’ve got cars to move, people! (Applause.)
In all seriousness, despite the jokes I’ve told, I’m here tonight because I appreciate the work that all of you do and the role that you play. You report the news as it happens, and you're covering history as it’s made. With a handheld camera or a mic, or now even a cell phone or a blog, you bring the truth to people and allow people to bring truth to the world.
We're seeing that now as history is unfolding. In the sounds and images broadcast from Iran over the last week, we've seen professional and citizen journalists act as a voice for those who want to be heard, bearing witness to universal aspirations of democracy and freedom. Often at great risk, and sometimes with great sacrifice, they do it because the rest of us need to hear the stories that they tell. In recent years, we've seen the same courageous reporting in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and the Congo, and in every dangerous corner of the world. And everywhere there’s a story that needs to be told.
I think all of you understand these are changing times. As journalists, you understand that better than anyone. But one thing that will never change is the need to report the news as it happens, wherever it happens. This is what you do; and this is what will help us meet the challenges of our time. We are grateful to you for that.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)