Ezra Klein: Obama Got Real at WHCD By Showing He’s ‘Annoyed at the Press’ and ‘Appalled at Republicans’

Did President Obama do a standup comedy routine at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Not as much as he performed “a recital of brutal truths,” asserted Vox’s Ezra Klein in a Monday article.

For example, regarding Obama’s remark that his executive actions on climate change and immigration were “the right thing to do,” Klein noted, “That's not a joke. That's Obama's actual justification for the aggressive executive actions of his second term…[O]nly [at the WHCD] can [he] say what everyone already knows: his actions are huge, they are controversial, they push the norms of American politics, but fuck it, at a moment when American politics seems increasingly broken, Obama has decided to just go ahead and do what he thinks is right.”

Klein also praised Obama’s double act with Keegan-Michael Key, which contained shots at targets such as Fox News and Jim Inhofe, as “the place where Obama stopped being polite and started getting real.”

From Klein’s piece (bolding added):

The White House Correspondents' Dinner has…evolved into a recital of brutal truths — albeit one neither side ever really admits happened…

After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me, "Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?" And I said, "Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.’"…

Take executive action on immigration? Bucket...New climate regulations? Bucket. It’s the right thing to do…

The tip-off there is, "It's the right thing to do." That's not a joke. That's Obama's actual justification for the aggressive executive actions of his second term…

[But] it's only on the evening of the White House Correspondents' Dinner when he can say what everyone already knows: his actions are huge, they are controversial, they push the norms of American politics, but fuck it, at a moment when American politics seems increasingly broken, Obama has decided to just go ahead and do what he thinks is right…

But the place where Obama stopped being polite and started getting real was when he brought out [Key as] Luther, his personal anger translator. This was, itself, a way of giving up the game. The Luther joke comes from the Comedy Central sketch show Key and Peele, and the point of it is that Obama, as the first black president, is not allowed to express his anger, as America is terrified of angry black men. And so he's got Luther — the angry black man who can say what he can't.

…[A]t the White House Correspondents' Dinner, the whole point was that the joke isn't a joke at all…[W]hen Luther spoke, now he really was speaking for Obama:

…LUTHER: And we can count on Fox News to terrify old white people with some nonsense!..."Sharia law is coming to Cleveland. Run for the damn hills!"…

LUTHER: Oh, and CNN, thank you so much for the wall-to-wall Ebola coverage. For two whole weeks, we were one step away from the Walking Dead. (Laughter.) And then you all got up and just moved on to the next day. That was awesome. Oh, and by the way, just if you haven’t noticed, you don’t have Ebola!...

LUTHER: Y'all remember when I had that big, old hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and then I plugged it? Remember that? Which "Obama’s Katrina" was that one? Was that 19? Or was it 20? Because I can’t remember…

But if Obama is annoyed at the press, he is appalled at Republicans who deny climate change — and are trying to block him from taking action to stop climate change...

…THE PRESIDENT: I mean, look at what’s happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it’s a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day, and instead of doing anything about it, we’ve got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate!

LUTHER: Okay, Mr. President. Okay, I think they’ve got it, bro.

THE PRESIDENT: It is crazy! What about our kids? What kind of stupid, shortsighted, irresponsible bull -- (Laughter and applause.)

LUTHER: Wow! Hey! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: What?!

LUTHER: All due respect, sir. You don’t need an anger translator. (Laughter.) You need counseling.

…To paraphrase [Incredible Hulk alter ego] Bruce Banner, Obama's secret is he's always angry, at least about this stuff — but the White House Correspondents' Dinner is the only weekend of the year in which he's allowed to show it.

Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Fox News Channel Vox Humor Keegan-Michael Key White House Correspondents Dinner Ezra Klein Barack Obama Jim Inhofe


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