Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is making light of his advantage being an Italian-American Pentagon chief. He made the comment Saturday night while serving as the stand-in for President Barack Obama at the 127th Gridiron Dinner.
Panetta said that unlike predecessors Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld, he could sit at the negotiating table and say: "I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse" _ a reference to the famous line from "The Godfather."
The event brought together members of the news media, administration officials and politicians for a night of songs and skits.
Speaking for the Republicans was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who poked fun at his gaffes during an unsuccessful run for the GOP presidential nomination.
He also had fun at the expense of the remaining candidates, saying: "The weakest Republican field in history, and they kicked my butt..."
President Barack Obama spoke to the group in a pretaped video.