Donald Trump is a lot of things, but one quality we wouldn’t necessarily ascribe to him is “funny.” Sure, he cracks jokes, but the fact that he has the nuclear codes in his back pocket adds a certain gravitas that makes them less humourous. Lately, he’s been trying harder to get the public to laugh with some success. Last month, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the president may have made his first ever on-record self deprecating joke when he playfully brushed his hair and laughed about covering his bald spot.
He tried to keep that momentum going this weekend, but the dictator-y undertones made things a little more serious. At a private fundraiser Saturday, Trump commented on the previous week’s news that Chinese President Xi Jinping is eliminating presidential term limits in the country to remain in power longer. The U.S. president joked that they should give that a try in the States.
“He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,” he said, referring to Xi, “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day.”
Here’s the audio CNN obtained of President Donald Trump praising the Chinese president’s power. “Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.” https://t.co/zIr7IQ5FQV
— Tristan Milder (@ItsTristanM) March 4, 2018
The Republican donors at the event seemed to love it, but most people are a little bit concerned about what that means. Obviously, he’s not currently making moves to abolish term limits in the United States, but various people have speculated since he took office, that Donald Trump might not vacate the White House graciously when the time comes.
Are we actually being serious? Am I dreaming? https://t.co/PEw1hSUE3j
— Blake Kitterman (@Blake_Kitterman) March 4, 2018
Four months ago, I started telling friends/family that I thought if Trump were somehow able to a) stand for re-election and b) win, and if c) he were around at the end of his second term, he’d refuse to cede power to a successor. And now we get tonight’s news. Legitimately scary. https://t.co/0YLVWMCHxU
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) March 4, 2018
President for Life Trump? No POTUS should ever EVER even joke about ignoring the Constitution to make himself dictator–if it was a joke. Couldn’t you see Trump trying it under certain circumstances? I can.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) March 4, 2018
Sunday brought more joking from the president at the Gridiron Club Dinner hosted for political officials and members of the media. During his speech at the closed-door event, the president poked fun at his staff, the mainstream media and even himself with varying degrees of success. There’s no audio from the event, but those present at the dinner — being journalists — reported from inside.
Usually punctual, Trump joked at the beginning of his speech that he was running late because son-in-law/senior political adviser Jared Kushner couldn’t get through security. Last week, Kushner’s security clearance was downgraded, barring his access to the president’s daily briefing among other “top-secret” information.
Trump “joked” about Kushner’s clearance: Before I get started I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late. You know, we’re late tonight because Jared could not get through the security. I will tell you he is a good guy-and he has suffered. He is a great guy. #FireKushner
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) March 4, 2018
Trump also took a swipe at Attorney General Jeff Sessions who recused himself from the Russia investigation last year and has been on the outs with Trump ever since. Reports last week also surfaced that Trump will sometimes refer to Sessions as “Mr. Magoo.” At the dinner, he said he offered Sessions a ride over, but the AG “recused himself.”
Trump says he offered Sessions ride to Gridiron but he “recused himself.” He says Bannon “leaked more than the Titanic.” He adds that “I like turnover. I like chaos.” He expresses frustration with Omarosa. “Omarosa you’re the worst!” Also calls Pelosi “crazy” but a “fine woman.”
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 4, 2018
Then Trump had some fun with Vice President Mike Pence. He said that the VP starts every morning wondering if Trump has been impeached yet. That doesn’t really seem like a joke. We all do that.
Trump joked at last night’s Gridiron dinner about Mike Pence being eager to take his job. Pence, who Trump said is “one of the best straight men,” per pool, “starts out each morning asking everybody, ‘Has he been impeached yet?’”
— Matt Berman (@Mr_Berman) March 4, 2018
Then the president started in on people outside his administration. He bashed both former-VP Joe Biden — calling him “Sleepy Joe” — and Oprah — who bashes Oprah? — for their supposed presidential runs. He also sort of implied when he told Oprah to “go ahead and run” that he is a god.
Here are Trump’s comments on Joe Biden and Oprah from Saturday night’s Gridiron dinner. pic.twitter.com/XJIhM4TbRX
— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) March 4, 2018
At the end of the event, the president let everyone know that he had a good time dragging everyone he’s ever met. He addressed the media directly, saying, “This might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night.” That’s cold, Mr. President. Real cold.
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) March 4, 2018
The atmosphere of the Gridiron dinner is meant to be light and the speeches typically focus on playful banter between political officials and the media. Last year, Trump skipped the dinner as well as the similar White House Correspondents Dinner in April. Hopefully the president’s decision to attend this year was actually about him wanting to entertain, rather than relay real information about his political aspirations.