Lesley Clark

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama poked fun at his Republican rivals Saturday night, but didn’t spare his own Secret Service or his past indulgence of exotic cuisine as he delivered remarks before a crowd of Hollywood stars, political power brokers and journalists.

Obama opened his bit at the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents Association by exiting stage right to pretend that he’d been caught complaining about a live microphone in the men’s room — a jibe at his overheard conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“What am I doing here?” his voice asked offstage. “I’m the president of the United States and I’m opening for Jimmy Kimmel and telling knock-knock jokes to Kim Kardashian.”

The dinner, which benefits a scholarship for journalism students, began in 1914 as an event for the president and the press corps that covers him. But over the past two decades, it has morphed into a star-studded affair featuring movie, TV and sports figures. At one point, Obama chatted from the head table with George Clooney, who will raise money for the president’s re-election campaign next month at his California home.

From the podium, Obama wisecracked about presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and the federal government’s General Services Administration, recently rocked by a scandal over excessive spending on a conference in Las Vegas.

“It’s great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom — or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper,” Obama said, poking fun at Romney’s taste for pricey homes. “I mean, look at this party. We’ve got men in tuxes, women in gowns, fine wine, first-class entertainment. I was just relieved to learn this was not a GSA conference.”

Obama took a few shots at himself, noting that he hadn’t yet seen The Hunger Games: “Not enough class warfare for me.” And he aired a fake attack ad, delving into a campaign fracas involving dogs: Democrats have barked at Romney for once putting his family dog in a crate affixed to the roof of a car, and Republicans have made note of an admission in one of Obama’s books that he ate dog meat as a child in Indonesia.

“What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” Obama asked, referring to Sarah Palin’s 2008 GOP convention speech. “A pit bull is delicious.”