Washington: US President Barack Obama has poked fun on himself about his young "Muslim Socialist" background and even copied his popular wife Michelle's new hairstyle to boost his image in his second innings at the White House.
Obama stepped to the podium at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner as DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win" played as an introduction and told the audience, "Rush Limbaugh warned you about this - second term, baby."
Obama said his advisers were "a little worried about the new rap entrance music," and suggested that he kick off his speech with jokes at his own expense to "take himself down a peg." But, the president responded, "after 4 years, how many pegs are there left?"
"These days I look in the mirror and have to admit, I'm not the strapping young Muslim Socialist that I used to be," Obama, 51, who attended the gala for the fifth time on Saturday, said in one of his self-deprecating jokes, mocking that belief among a radical conservative fringe of Americans.
And after referring to first lady Michelle's enduring popularity, he said his own team had advised an image change and presented a montage of shots featuring him with a fringe similar to his 49-year-old wife wore on inauguration day on January 20.
There were shrieks of laughter from the star-studded audience - who included actors Kevin Spacey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Claire Danes and South Korean singer Psy as he delivered his punchlines.
The Beltway gala, also known as the "nerd prom," sees Washington's newsmakers stroll a red carpet that's also filled with press and stars from across entertainment. While he was airing out his frustrations, Obama acknowledged the political bickering in Congress.
"It's simple: we need to make progress on some important issues," he said. "Take the sequester: Republicans fell in love with this thing. And now they can't stop talking about how much they hate it -- it's like we're trapped in a Taylor Swift album."
Obama also offered some advice to Republicans focusing on outreach to minority voters following their defeat in 2012 in the race for the White House. "Call me self-centered, but I can think of one minority they can start with," he said, motioning toward himself. "Think of me as a trial run, see how it goes."
Obama also brought out a video clip of Steven Spielberg introducing his (fake) new film "Obama," featuring Obama spoofing Daniel Day-Lewis. The media was also included in his standup routine. The History Channel, whose depiction of Satan in its TV miniseries "The Bible" left viewers claiming that it resembled the president, wasn't in attendance, likely because of that incident, Obama said.
"Of course, that never kept Fox News from showing up - they actually thought the comparison was not fair to Satan," he joked. To CNN, he said he admired the "commitment to cover all sides of the story, just in case one of them happens to be accurate," while he commended the "nice change of pace" at MSNBC. The network now has his former political adviser David Axelrod working for them, whereas "MSNBC used to work for David Axelrod."
But Obama also took a more serious tone as he paid tribute to those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing and the explosion at the West, Texas fertiliser plant. "These have been some hard days for too many of our citizens," he said.
"As we gather here tonight, our thoughts are not far from the people of Boston, the people of West, Texas, and the families in the Midwest who are coping with some terrible floods. So we've had some difficult days."
Yet through the efforts of first and all those who helped those during their time of need, "even when the days seem darkest, we have seen humanity shine at its brightest." Obama heaped praise not only on the emergency services but the journalists who covered the stories.
The gala dinner, which raises money for journalism scholarships, was first established in 1920 with the intent to increase communication between the president and the press. It was a men-only event until 1962, when President John F Kennedy said he would not attend unless women were invited as well.
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