WASHINGTON–Proving once against that there are second acts in politics, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was a big hit Saturday night at the 128th annual Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner, more than making up for his disastrous 2009 State of the Union speech.
Which of course he used as fodder, since the best political humor is self-deprecating– and Jindal had an abundance of material.
The white-tie and gown affair hosted by the journalism group (disclosure: I’m a member) featured Jindal, speaking for Republicans; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) representing Democrats and President Barack Obama.
Obama did a suave put down of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), whose 2013 State of the Union rebuttal is remembered by his lurching for a bottle of water.
Obama very unobtrusively took a sip of water during his remarks, pausing to let the sight gag sink in.
“That, Marco Rubio,” said Obama. “Is how you take a sip of water.”
The long evening featured skits satirizing Republicans and Democrats performed by costumed club members interspersed with the speeches.
Though Obama may look calm, Jindal zinged, “He is terrified that I will upstage him again, just like I did with that State of the Union response a few years ago.”
Jindal is widely seen as a potential 2016 contender and Jindal did nothing to douse that talk.
Noting that some people ask him if he intends to run for president, Jindal said, “My answer is I have no plans to run. I have made that clear over and over again. In Iowa. In New Hampshire and in South Carolina,” he said, naming the states with the first caucus and primaries.
After all, he said with faux modesty, “What chance does a skinny guy with a dark complexion and a funny name have to get elected president of the United States.”
The crowd roared.
“The truth is, I am too skinny to run. At least that’s what my friend, Chris Christie, keeps telling me,” Jindal said of the overweight New Jersey Governor, also mentioned as a 2016 prospect.
On a roll, Jindal went on to compare himself with Obama and mock his own party.
He said earnestly that Obama and he had the “exact same campaign slogan years ago but unfortunately UPS sued both of us and made us stop using it. You remember our slogan, ‘What can Brown do for you?”‘
“Speaking of brown, I was hoping to see my good friend, John Boehner, here tonight,” Jindal said of Boehner, the House Speaker who is always tan. “We actually go to the same tanning salon here in Washington.”
Jindal poked fun at the name of Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican party. Hard to imagine, he said, a “better name than Reince Priebus to connect with the working class and convince people we are not the party of one per centers.
“At least I had the political foresight at the age of four to change my name to Bobby.”
Jindal was not afraid to stray into the bawdy lane.
Referring to former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford–who quit because of his Argentine mistress–and is now running for a House seat–Jindal said he was “so committed to outsourcing, he even shifted his wife’s job overseas,” a jab that drew groans from the audience.
Sanford recently asked ex-wife to run his campaign, leaving Jindal to observe, “Hard to believe we Republicans have a gender gap problem, isn’t it?”
Turning to freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) who got in a jam in her campaign for once claiming to be part American Indian, Jindal, the son of immigrants from India gave her a shout out.
“We’ve got a lot in common. From one Indian politician to another, I want to wish you all the best.”
Obama recently played golf with Tiger Woods–who had his own problems with a mistress.
Said Jindal, “Tiger reportedly said that the president has, and I quote, ‘amazing touch.’ The last time Tiger said that he lost millions in endorsements and a hot Swedish wife.”
Klobuchar took to the podium with a just asking approach. “I don’t want to be judgmental, right from the start, but did anyone else notice that Bobby Jindal lip-synced his entire remarks?
She took aim at Obama, over a White House photo of him skeet shooting at Camp David, to prove–as the gun legislation debate heats up–that he has shot a gun.
“The president asks for one thing. If you could all give me your dessert plates on the tables when you exit, the hotel staff will collect them immediately after this event because the President is going skeet shooting.”
With the Gridiron dinner speakers a woman, an Indian-American and a president with a white mother and black father, Klobuchar rolled with “I know the Governor and the President and I agree on one thing:
“One day soon, maybe not next year, maybe not in our children’s lifetome, but one day you will once again have a white male politician speak at the Gridiron.”
The sequester–those automatic spending cuts going in because Congress and the White House could not agree on a spending and revenue deal–was grist for Obama.
“Because of sequester, they cut my tails. My joke writers have been placed on furlough,” Obama said.
And on the dust-up between Bob Woodward and White House Economic advisor Gene Sperling–Obama noted, “that some folks couldn’t make it this evening. It’s been noted that Bob Woodward sends his regrets, which Gene Sperling predicted. I have to admit this whole brouhaha had me a little surprised. Who knew Gene could be so intimidating?”
“Now I know that some folks think we responded to Woodward too aggressively. But hey, when has — can anybody tell me when an administration has ever regretted picking a fight with Bob Woodward? What’s the worst that could happen? “
After teaching Rubio how to be smooth, Obama said after that sip of water, “As I was saying, we face major challenges. March in particular is going to be full of tough decisions. But I want to assure you, I have my top advisors working around the clock.
After all, my March Madness bracket isn’t going to fill itself out. And don’t worry — there is an entire team in the situation room as we speak, planning my next golf outing, right now at this moment. “
Obama also referred to that skeet shooting photo.
“Of course, maintaining credibility in this cynical atmosphere is harder than ever — incredibly challenging. My administration recently put out a photo of me skeet shooting and even that wasn’t enough for some people. Next week, we’re releasing a photo of me clinging to religion.”