Obama, Palin share spotlight at Washington roast


Mon, Feb 02, 2009 - Page 7

US President Barack Obama and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin shared headline billing on Saturday at an exclusive roast of the US’ political movers and shakers.

The light-hearted evening of dinner and political jibes, a nearly century-old tradition of the prestigious Alfalfa Club, requires that participants try their hand at comedy — which they carry off with greater or lesser success.

Obama also alluded to the fact that the event’s freighted history — being founded by a white Southerner in the immediate post-Civil War era — made his starring turn rather unlikely.

“Many of you are aware that this dinner began almost 100 years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of [Southern US Civil War] General Robert E. Lee,” Obama said. “If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old — and very confused.”

He also poked good-natured fun at the famously foul mouth of his chief of staff, former US representative Rahm Emanuel.

“This hasn’t been reported yet, but it was actually Rahm’s idea to do the swearing-in ceremony again,” Obama said, referring to the now famous do-over of his flubbed inauguration oath. “Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony.”

Obama also found humor in his hard fought negotiations with US security officials to keep his cherished Blackberry communications device.

“In just the first few weeks, I’ve had to engage in some of the toughest diplomacy of my life. And that was just to keep my Blackberry,” he said.

“I finally agreed to limit the number of people who could e-mail me. It’s a very exclusive list. How exclusive? Everyone look at the person sitting on your left. Now look at the person sitting on your right. None of you have my e-mail address,” he said

Short on details of the closed-door event, news reports citing participants said Palin was the object of jovial ribbing, on the heels of her breakthrough last year as the first woman on a Republican Party presidential ticket.

Last week, US media reported that Palin said she planned to attend the black-tie event in part to promote her state’s interests, and “because President Obama is scheduled to be there.”

“How often will I have an opportunity to have dinner with the president?” Palin reportedly said.