Speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday night, President Joe Biden was up there for only about 13 minutes, mercifully so. His first jokes earned laughter from the crowd. Notably, what made them as funny as they were was that Biden was able to engage in self-deprecating humor about himself.
One such joke was about his age, when Biden was referencing how Calvin Coolidge was the first president to speak at such an event, in 1924. "I'd just been elected to the United States Senate. I remember telling him, 'Cal, just be yourself. Get up there and speak from the heart. You're gonna be great, kid, you're gonna do it well.'"
The self-deprecating humor was mostly about his poor approval ratings, though. "Thank you, Steve, for that introduction," the president said as he stepped up to the podium. "And a special thanks to the 42 percent of you who actually applauded." FiveThirtyEight has Biden at a 41.7 percent approval rating, while RealClearPolitics (RCP) similarly has him at 41.5 percent.
He went on to say "I'm really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have." A Gallup poll from last October noted that "Americans' trust in the media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down four percentage points since last year to 36%," which is the second-lowest for Gallup trends, slightly ahead of the 32 percent for 2016.
As he acknowledged his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, the president pointed out "she doesn't pay much attention to the polls, though she did say the other day instead of introducing myself as Joe Biden's husband, maybe I should introduce myself as her roommate." The president and the first lady laughed along at the joke.
Biden has claimed before that he doesn't believe the polls, as he did during his January press conference. Such delusion may be why he would later emphasize in his speech "I'm not worried about the midterms," though he should be. Historical precedence alone looks bad for Biden, as the president's party almost always loses seats in his first midterm election. With the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate as narrow as they are, though, as well as Biden's pitiful polling numbers--which he himself acknowledged--and the high amount of Democratic retirements, it's sure to be even worse for Democrats come November.
While Biden did, as was to be expected, take aim at Fox News, the Republican Party, and former President Donald Trump, the crowd was not entirely receptive to it all. When it came to a joke about Disney World, there was more audible laughter from Biden than there was the audience.
So many good joke opportunities with Disney and this is the best the outside joke writers they hired could do? https://t.co/crmD3poY7L— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) May 1, 2022
"Folks, I'm not really here to roast the GOP. That's not my style," he claimed. "Besides, there's nothing I can say about the GOP that Kevin McCarthy hasn't already put on tape," the president said to audible reaction from the crowd. "At the same time, a lot of people say the Republican Party is too extreme, too divisive, too controlled by one person. They say it's not your father's Republican Party. Ronald Reagan said 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear this wall down!' Today's Republicans say 'Tear Down Mickey Mouse's house! And pretty soon they'll be storming Cinderella's castle, you can be sure of it."
Biden segued into making reference to the "Let's Go Brandon" chant, which is a more polite way of saying "F*ck Joe Biden."
"Republicans seem to support one fella, some guy named Brandon. He's having a really good year! And I'm kind of happy for him!"
Biden spent a considerable amount of time speaking about Ukraine and praising the press. He even mentioned a line about disinformation, though it was not to share that he's having his Department of Homeland Security get rid of the chilling and highly concerning new Disinformation Governance Board announced last week.
"And at home, a poison is running through our democracy," Biden claimed, "of all, all this taking place with disinformation massively on the rise, where the truth is buried by lies and lies live on as truth," is how he framed the issue.
The president closed in part by speaking of his optimism for the country. In addition to his belief that "the future is bright," Biden shared "I've never been more optimistic about America than I am today."