8:28 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, members of the press, fellow sufferers. (Laughter.)
I would like to thank the Radio and Television Correspondents Association for inviting me this evening. I want to give Terry Murphy a special thanks for the kind introduction and, also, given my condition, I'd like to give a special thank-you to the Ridgewell Catering Company for bringing me here tonight. (Laughter.) Enough laughs.
I have come here tonight to speak about a topic of perennial concern in Washington, something we never get around to doing anything about. And that is the close, some would even say cozy relationship, between the rarefied elite who make public policy and those who report on it. And on that topic, just let me say this: Congratulations, Andrea. (Laughter and applause.)
You know, that fella standing next to you in the newspaper photos a few days ago -- (laughter) -- he looked exactly like Alan Greenspan, only exuberant. (Laughter and applause.)
I want all of you to know that, until recently, I had planned out a really dramatic entrance to this dinner. (Laughter.) And then, George Bush stole my thunder. (Laughter.) I mean, look at this -- this guy is 72 years old, he jumps out of a plane at 12,000 feet, he lands without a scratch. (Laughter.) I fall six inches, and I'm crippled up for six months. It's ridiculous. (Applause.)
Now, as you might imagine, my injured knee adds complications to my schedule. In fact, you know, just when I was on the way over here tonight -- (laughter) -- as you have seen, my press secretary, Mike McCurry, just handed me a note.
According to wire reports, former President Bush has just bungee jumped off the Seattle Space Needle. (Laughter.)
That reminds me -- I was supposed to make another announcement tonight. Mr. Murphy has asked me to tell you that the Radio and Television Correspondents Association has decided to adopt the practices of the Democratic National Committee. (Laughter.) That means you can all pick up your $1,000 refund checks on the way out tonight. (Laughter and applause.)
You know, I'm getting a little sick of these fundraising stories. (Laughter.) But here I am, I'm doing the best to do the job the American people sent me here to do. But with all this ruckus in Washington these days, we have to work harder and harder to sort of be heard through the din. So my staff worked up a few new ideas that we thought might break through. I want you to be the judge. After all, it's your din. (Laughter.)
Here are the suggestions: Take a cue from the TV show, "Ellen." Start a rumor that in the last presidential press conference of the season, my character will become a libertarian. (Laughter.)
Announce that we've discovered signs of life on Mars. We already tried that, and some of you bought it; I couldn't believe it. (Laughter and applause.)
Announce that I will fight Evander Holyfield. (Laughter.) Anytime, anyplace. (Laughter.)
Here's the Vice President's suggestion. Sign an executive order hiring people on welfare to install computers in our nation's classrooms, to e-mail messages to neighborhood watch volunteers, to use their cell phones to call 100,000 community police officers, to remind the 1 million literacy tutors to show up for work. (Laughter and applause.)
If all else fails, push myself down a flight of stairs. (Laughter.)
As you know, that's the one we decided to go with. (Laughter.) It worked for a while and I would do it again. I may have to. (Laughter.) ......Thank you very much, Mike. (Laughter.)
Ladies and gentlemen, you will be pleased to learn that former President Bush -- (laughter) -- has just successfully jumped the Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered motorcycle. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, he's just taunting me. (Laughter.)
You know, one of the results of being bummed up for while is that I've gotten to watch a lot more television than normal, and I spent a day in the hospital just sort of channel-flipping, "surfing," that's what you call it now. And I was amazed at the way all these different channels struggled to accurately but uniquely cover my surgery. (Laughter.)
C-SPAN, of course, provided live, uninterrupted coverage of my injured knee -- (laughter) -- while C-SPAN 2 devoted full coverage to my other knee. (Laughter and applause.)
Within an hour of the accident, CNN had composed ominous theme music -- (laughter) -- and put up a graphic, "Breaking News, Breaking Knees." (Laughter and applause.)
I knew it was going to be a major story when their "Headline News" devoted a full five seconds to it. (Laughter.)
MSNBC immediately proclaimed itself the state-of-the-art global interactive command center for all leg-related news. (Laughter.)
ESPN broke into the North Carolina-Colorado basketball game with a breathless bulletin that Greg Norman was just fine. (Laughter and applause.)
PBS kept interrupting coverage of my knee for pledge drives. (Laughter.) For every $100 donation, you got a commemorative X-ray of my leg. (Laughter.)
Bob Novak went on "Crossfire" to argue the positive aspects of debilitating knee injuries for Democrats. (Laughter.)
And then, there was MTV. All they wanted to know was, did I wear a hospital gown or pajamas. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Another one.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mike. (Laughter.) Ladies and gentlemen, President Bush has just had himself manacled, placed inside a padlocked trunk -- (laughter) -- and submerged off the coast of Kennebunkport. (Laughter.) The clock is ticking. (Laughter.) Our prayers are with him. (Laughter.)
Anyway, I'm back on my feet and I'm working for the American people. Congress is back in session this week. That came as a surprise to people in Washington who didn't know it was away. (Laughter.) Things have been so slow this year, C-SPAN is actually showing reruns of the 104th Congress. (Laughter and applause.)
We can't get agreement to change the consumer price index; that's the hang-up on this whole budget deal. And there are Democrats and Republicans in the House; they're scared to death of it. But, you know, a small change in the CPI could shave billions of dollars from the deficit, add years and years to the life of the Social Security Trust Fund.
Now, I know this is a complicated issue for some people, and I've been looking for some simple way to explain it. And so, consider how we might re-index some other statistics. For example, a report said last month that we Americans are the heaviest people in the world. Working together, reaching across party lines, we can change all that. (Laughter.) Instead of 16 ounces to a pound, we'll say there's 20 ounces. (Laughter.) That way, a person who weighs 200 pounds would way 160 pounds. Think about it: overnight, Democrats and Republicans can make America the thinnest nation in the world. (Laughter.)
Let me tell you, I'm doing the best I can, but actually I'm kind of hurting. The worst thing about this injury is, it's hard to stand for long periods of time, and about this time I start to get tired. So I'm going to sort of sit down with a confession. When I signed that executive order banning cloning research, it was too late to do anything about an experiment or two that had already been started. (Laughter.) But one of them has come in handy in moments like this.
Bill, would you mind? (Laughter.) ("Ruffles and Flourishes" is played. ) (Darrell Hammond, Clinton impersonator from Saturday Night Live, arrives at podium.) (Applause.)
"CLONE": Mr. President, have a seat. (Laughter and applause.) By the way, I'd appreciate it if you would refer to me as Mr. President. (Laughter.) I think you've earned it. (Laughter.)
Mr. President, members of the House and Senate, ladies and gentlemen. As you can see, I'm also Bill Clinton. (Laughter.) Typically, when I come in to mop up at the end of an event like this, I'll just finish reading from some prepared text and say things like "we must find common ground." (Laughter.)
"We're going to build a bridge to the 21st century." (Laughter.)
"I'll have to refer you to Lanny Davis on that one." (Laughter.)
"Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da." (Laughter.)
.....Thank you, Mike. This is odd. Evidently, George Bush has successfully escaped and has been spotted swimming toward the coast of Maine. (Laughter.) What the hell does that mean? (Laughter and applause.)
Well, where was I? Oh, yeah. You know what I would like to tell you all about tonight? How much I -- (laughter) -- how much I hate waiting around to see if I'm going to pinch-hit for him today. It's demeaning, it's
dehumanizing. I don't know how Al Gore's put up with it all these years.
But I shouldn't complain. I mean, if you're going to be a clone, you're not going to do a whole lot better than being a clone of the President of the United States. The key to being a clone is making sure you're the clone of somebody cool. (Laughter.) Let's face it -- this gig could be a whole lot worse. Imagine waking up and finding out you're a Bob Dornan clone -- (laughter) -- sitting up all night, counting votes. (Laughter.)
I did get some work done. I had a meeting with some members of Congress about some chemical weapons -- some treaty-type thing. (Laughter.) Mr. President, remind me -- are we for that or against it? We're for it. (Laughter.)
I'll tell you what -- I do love that red phone. (Laughter.) Oh, by the way, maybe you ought to be the one to call Yeltsin back and apologize. (Laughter.) If I call him again, I'll just make it worse. (Laughter and applause.)
Want to come back up here, Mr. President of the United States? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I have to take this over before it gets out of hand. (Laughter.) God knows, I can't afford to jeopardize my relationship with the press corps. (Laughter.) But I want to thank you, Bill, or "Mr. President." By the way, I wrote up a to-do list for you for the next couple of days.
As usual, there's the morning jog; you have to do that now. (Laughter.) Tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. I have a conflict. I have a root canal appointment and a press conference in the East Room. I know it's going to hurt, but would you mind doing the press conference? (Laughter.)
No, wait a minute. I couldn't ask anybody else to do that, even me. Actually, I enjoy these press conferences and I enjoy coming here every year. I thank you all for what you've done to sustain our democracy for nearly 225 years. Our country is still a work in progress and I look forward to building on that progress with you. I even look forward to these dinners, and I really wouldn't want to send anyone else in my place. So I want to thank all of you for having Hillary, me, and me here this evening. (Laughter.)
In closing, let me say we must find common ground. (Laughter.) We are going to build that bridge to the 21st century. (Laughter.) I do have to refer you to Lanny Davis on that one. (Laughter.)
Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da. (Laughter.)
Good night, and thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 8:45 P.M. EDT