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The Comedian in Chief

By Dan Froomkin
9:11 AM ET, 02/ 2/2009

Talk about bipartisan politics. President Obama's comic side was on display Saturday night when he headlined the exclusive Alfalfa Club dinner. The club, founded in 1913, was named for the plant's willingness to "do anything for a drink" and exists solely to throw a lavish, off-the-record annual party, where leaders from both political parties tell jokes to -- and about -- each other.

The White House released some excerpts from Obama's remarks, heavy on quips aimed at the president's famously profane chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel:

"I am seriously glad to be here tonight at the annual Alfalfa dinner. I know that many you are aware that this dinner began almost one hundred years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. If he were here with us tonight, the General would be 202 years old. And very confused....

"Now, this hasn't been reported yet, but it was actually Rahm's idea to do the swearing-in ceremony again. Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony....

"But don't believe what you read. Rahm Emanuel is a real sweetheart....

"No, it's true. Every week the guy takes a little time away to give back to the community. Just last week he was at a local school, teaching profanity to poor children....

"But these are the kind of negotiations you have to deal with as President. In just the first few weeks, I've had to engage in some of the toughest diplomacy of my life. And that was just to keep my Blackberry. I finally agreed to limit the number of people who could email me. It's a very exclusive list. How exclusive?.... Everyone look at the person sitting on your left? Now look at the person sitting on your right? None of you have my email address."

A few more of the one-liners leaked out as well.

Mike Allen writes for Politico: "President Obama, at last night’s closed-press Alfalfa Dinner, on the delay in getting a dog: 'The labradoodle we picked has some problems with back taxes.'"

Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin write in the Examiner: "President Obama said he was freezing the salaries of everyone at the White House making over $100,000. He quipped that no one had frozen that much money since ex-Rep. William Jefferson."

Manuel Roig-Franzia writes in The Washington Post: "Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- the club's outgoing president -- noted that former vice president Richard B. Cheney injured himself while moving into his new home, according to a source inside the dinner.

"'I had no idea waterboards were so heavy,' Lieberman quipped."

Mark Silva and Clarence Page blog for Tribune that Lieberman also "announced that Obama will be visiting the Washington offices of The New York Times soon 'as part of your search for a new house of worship.'"

Jo Mannies writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the comments by the incoming Alfalfa president, Missouri Republican Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond: "I plan to follow Barack Obama’s model, and diminish the role of the Vice President. … If our president didn’t know then, he sure does now: Joe Biden is the reason Amtrak invented the quiet car."

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