WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama took a gentle shot at former GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry in a video he taped for the Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner on Saturday night, recalling that famous debate when the Texas Governor could not remember the third of three cabinet agencies he wanted to close.
Obama did not attend; he was in the Republic of Korea for a nuclear security summit. He sent a short video played near the beginning of what is a long evening, what with a satirical show and three speeches.
This year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta represented the White House; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke for the Democrats and Perry for the Republicans.
Obama, looking straight into the camera said, "Every year, the Gridiron dinner is a chance for politicians to say some truly outrageous things. For those of us not involved in the Republican primary, that's a rare opportunity.
"So while I know some people have suggested I scheduled a trip to South Korea just to get out of this dinner, that is simply absurd. I mean, what better way to spend six hours on a Saturday night?
"Of course, I wanted to make sure I sent the right replacement. Knowing that I'll probably be the butt of many of your jokes, I chose my Secretary of Defense. Besides, at 73, Leon will inject the element of youthful energy the Gridiron needs.
"On a more serious note, I want to thank the members of the Gridiron for making our democracy stronger and more free. Enjoy the rest of your evening, especially tonight's three speakers: Secretary Panetta, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and ... uh ... the third speaker?"
Obama spoke at the 2011 dinner and at the 2006 dinner, when he was an Illinois senator.
He met Mitt Romney--his likely 2012 rival-- for the first time when they both spoke at the Gridiron 2004 winter dinner, just a few weeks after Obama won the Illinois Senate seat.
In 2011, Obama reflected on the then recently re-ignited birther debate in his remarks, referencing the birthers who would not believe he was born in the USA as he started his speech.
The band started playing "Hail to the Chief," the traditional presidential musical introduction when Obama interrupted and asked "Can we go with that song we talked about?"
With that, the band switched to the Bruce Springsteen hit "Born in the U.S.A."
Former President Bill Clinton pinch hit for Obama at the Gridiron in 2010; Vice President Joe Biden stood in for the president at the 2009 dinner.
In 2007, Romney, making his first run for the White House and Rahm Emanuel, now the Chicago mayor and then the Democratic House caucus chair were the featured speakers.
In 2006, then Sen. Obama was paired with then vice presidential spouse Lynne Cheney at the dinner, with President George W. Bush speaking at the end.
In 2004 Obama riffed about his celebrity at the Gridiron, saying everything changed for him after he keynoted the Democratic convention earlier that year and rocketed to fame.
"It's like I was shot out of a cannon. I am so overexposed, I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse. "
Here is what I wrote about Romney and Obama after the 2004 Winter Gridiron Dinner:
"Both men are mentioned as possible 2008 contenders, and that provided much grist for their respective funny shticks. Obama and Romney, the dueling stars, were very, very good. Romney was better, mainly because he also sang (a ditty to the tune of "Charley and the MTA") and he came with a witty visual presentation.
"Romney had a few zingers aimed at Obama. Obama, he said, is not seeking the limelight" after all. Obama has said that again and again"-- then Romney named some of the many national shows Obama has been on just in the past few weeks.
"Obama, who went on first, said everything changed for him after he keynoted the Democratic convention.
"It's like I was shot out of a cannon. I am so overexposed, I make Paris Hilton look like a recluse.
"After all the attention -- People magazine, GQ, Vanity Fair, Letterman -- I figure there's nowhere to go from here but down. So tonight, I announce my retirement from the United States Senate. I had a good run."
"He said he was not letting all the attention go to his head. He joked that he was hanging out with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson at a Los Angeles restaurant when Barbra Steisand called him on his cell phone. And he counseled her, 'you can't just get caught up in the hype."'
"Of course, all the hype, said Obama, generates wacky tabloid coverage." And with that he hoisted a poster, a mock cover of the National Enquirer with the headline: Obama's shocking secret. He's Strom Thurmond's 'love child."'
"It is tough, kidded Obama, to live up to all the expectations. There are people in Kenya, his father's homeland, who expect his election to mean the United States will fund new roads, new bridges and new schools.
"Joked Obama, "I had to explain to them how it works. First comes the invasion, and then billions in aid."