WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry served up a hilarious speech at the annual Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner on Saturday, mocking his patrician self from his first “Je m’appelle.”
A rule in political humor is that the more the self-deprecating the better, so Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a potential 2016 presidential contender, had plenty of material, as did former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a one-time Republican making a comeback bid as a Democrat.
The Gridiron white-tie dinner consists of a show put on by the journalists in the club (I’m a member and had a bit part in the chorus) — musical skits lampooning Democrats and Republicans, and three speeches.
Cruz and Crist spoke for their respective parties and Kerry stood in for President Barack Obama, who spent the weekend at a resort in the Florida Keys with his family. Kerry was the hit of the night, with a stream of zingers starting with recycling the first line of his 2004 Democratic convention speech — but this time in French.
And with no further introduction . . .
Kerry’s best lines:
“When President Obama asked me to take his place tonight, I have to tell you, my first thought was, “Finally!” Then I realized he meant just for tonight.”
“Actually, [Gridiron President] Clark Hoyt’s second choice for tonight’s administration speaker was the head of the NSA. But he just said, “No thanks, I’ll just listen in.”
“It really so nice to see so many of you here tonight. It’s really wonderful to be able to put faces to the metadata.”
Kerry targeted Obama and his untrue Obamacare promise — that if you like your health plan you can keep it: “Which by the way reminds me of a very special message President Obama personally asked me to deliver to all of you tonight: If you like your rented tuxedo, you can keep it.”
When Kerry, a decorated Navy vet, ran for president in 2004, he took blows from a group who distorted his Viet NamVietnam military record, Swiftboat Veterans for Truth: “If my jokes bomb, the Gridiron Veterans for Truth will simply tell the world that I was never here.”
Poking fun at the journalists: “And we’ve got folks here from all three broadcast television networks — or as most of this room thinks of it, the new media.”
On Crist: “Is Charlie Crist still here? I had to check — because he’s always so quick to leave a party. “
Kerry’s joke writers took aim at Kerry and Crist in a one-liner: “No, no — I admire Charlie, because he was for the GOP before he was against it.” (Kerry was wounded in his 2004 campaign by saying he “actually did vote” for $87 billion in war funding “before I voted against it.”)
On Cruz, who is unpopular with his fellow Republicans: “It’s got to be a great feeling to be in a room full of people who are laughing with you. “
On following Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State: “Not since J. Edgar Hoover has a presidential appointee left such high heels to fill.”
Crist turned on himself . . .
“The Gridiron always pokes fun at candidates from both parties. You could have saved a lot of time and just invited me.
“John McCain considered me and Sarah Palin for Vice President and he thought she was more qualified.”
Cruz was pretty funny….
“But tonight, I’m the anti-Crist. Matched up tonight with a Cuban tea partier… Charlie sits here today as a committed Democrat. But who knows, the night is young.”
Kerry’s $87 billion for-against it meme was fodder for Cruz, who was one of three senators to vote against his confirmation as Secretary of State: “I can try to make all kinds of excuses. You know, like I actually voted for the nomination before I voted against it.”
On Cruz critic McCain: “My relations with John McCain . . . have greatly improved. This week . . . he’s only once demanded a public apology from me. As wackobirds go, that’s pretty good.”