WASHINGTON, D.C. — Expect some swagger from President Barack Obama at Washington’s big prom Saturday night.
Dark humor in troubled political times has usually been on the menu for Obama at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. But this year there’s a lighter mood in the West Wing.
Obama heads into his penultimate bill-topping role at the glitzy gala on an upswing, despite GOP refrains that his foreign policy is a disaster and he’s guilty of an executive branch power grab.
Since Democrats lost the midterm elections in November, Obama has managed to defy the historical handcuffs of the lame duck presidency.
So he’s sure to remind the White House press corps that its predictions of his demise were greatly exaggerated — as he lashes the absurdities and pretensions of official Washington, a town with which he has never gelled.
Obama has also cast a bemused eye on the media’s coverage of the early stages of the race to replace him and may rib reporters for their obsession with Hillary Clinton’s trip to Chipotle.
The killing of American hostage Warren Weinstein in a U.S. drone strike on al Qaeda targets, meanwhile, will not temper the tone of Saturday’s speech, given that Obama publicly addressed the tragedy in more formal settings before the dinner.
His material this year is being marshaled by 28-year-old White House speechwriter David Litt, a senior administration official said, but he will draw on contributions from his wider political circle.
Former aides like first-term speechwriter Jon Favreau, former national security spokesman Tommy Vietor, Obama’s political guru David Axelrod and recently departed senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer augment the West Wing brain trust for the speech.
Professionals, including Stephen Colbert and the Weekend Update team from NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” also often contribute.
But the four-week process of writing the speech often whittles an initial trove of 45 or so jokes to just a handful, as many are too risque for a president to say.
This year, aides hope to showcase the president’s good spirits and political vigor as the administration hits the home stretch.
They point to Obama’s climate deal with China, his executive action on immigration, a tentative nuclear deal with Iran and his opening to Cuba as evidence that his presidency still sets the agenda.
His mood is also lightened by evidence that people are beginning to see the economy as improving — a factor that helped to lift his approval rating to 48 percent in a recent CNN/ORC poll.