Bill Clinton’s Unused 1995 White House Correspondents Dinner Speech
It's that time again: The White House Correspondents' Dinner, when presidents get onstage and yuk it up for a roomful of reporters they normally prefer to evade. But real-world problems sometimes get in the way, as they did in 1995 when Bill Clinton's planned speech was dropped in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. Speechwriter Mark Katz quickly scrambled to tone down the jokes. Herewith, the Clinton speech that could have been.
(Undelivered) Remarks of President Bill ClintonThe White House Correspondents’ DinnerApril 29, 1995
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I especially want to welcome those viewers watching this speech live on C-SPAN. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. There, I think that’s everybody. I know that calling the White House press corps together in one room in these days of an ambitious Republican Congress raises the relevant question: is the President funny? You bet I am. The Constitution makes me funny. The power of the presidency makes me funny. And if that weren’t enough, Warren Christopher and Janet Reno spent the afternoon punching up my material. Most of you also know that Mike McCurry and his wife Debra just gave birth to their third child, Christopher, last Friday. So it won’t be long before young Chris is old enough to work in the press office. Mike has served me well and I trust he’s done the same for you. I particularly liked his new policy, instructing the press office staff to send him a note each day chronicling a good deed they’ve done for the press corps—or kick in a dollar to a pizza fund. This of course was an expansion of my idea, where each day everyone at the White House kicks in a dollar and we just order pizzas. By and large, Mike’s plan has really had some great results. I’d like to share with you tonight some of the notes the press staff has sent to Mike in the past few months:
• To Mike from Ginny: I told Wolf that—Ito or no Ito—he’s still got the best looking beard on CNN. • To Mike from George: I snubbed Eleanor Clift in public, just like she asked me to. • To Mike from Rica: I told Brian Williams that when the Klieg lights hit him in a certain way, he looks just like Tom Brokaw. • To Mike from Rahm: I held the door open for Elizabeth Drew............She still wouldn’t leave my office.
However, because not every person was able to meet Mike’s challenge every day, there was about twenty bucks in the pizza fund. The First Lady offered to manage the fund. She has invested it wisely and I’m pleased to announce we’ll be serving surf and turf instead.
It was just two weeks ago when I announced the new government policy for declassifying what were once closely guarded government secrets. I know it will benefit all Americans but members of the press corps especially. Because now you won’t have to make stuff up. This whole initiative began when I personally lobbied the FDA to release the recipe for McDonald’s “secret sauce.” Among the documents and disclosures that now can be released:
• A revelation from NASA that Apollo 11 took off with 4 men and came back with 5. The fifth was James Carville. • J. Edgar Hoover’s 10 tips for a fabulous summer look. • Joseph McCarthy’s secret interrogation of all 25 players on the Cincinnati Reds. • The certificate that proves that Douglas MacArthur didn’t fade away. He just died. • A recording of a 1957 cabinet meeting where Eisenhower staffers repeatedly mispronounced the word “Shiite.” • Francis Gary Powers’ frequent flier number. • John Kennedy’s first draft of his inaugural speech with the words: “What can you do for your country? Don’t ask.” • Disturbing photographs of LBJ picking up his own grandchildren by the ears. • Never before revealed testimony of Ollie North telling the truth under oath. • A secret CIA plan to destabilize the government of the District of Columbia. (Thank God that one was nipped in the bud!)
Speaking of stabilizing governments, I've been working hard to stabilize mine. Perhaps you’ve noticed the influx of wise men and women who have joined by administration: old Washington hands like Leon Panetta, David Gergen and Tony Robbins. Tonight, I want to take this opportunity to introduce a few new seasoned veterans to my team who, thanks to the success of the 105th Congress in threatening the future of the Public Broadcasting System and pushing the former Democratic House leadership to the sideline, have now offered their services to my White House starting on Monday. Ladies and gentlemen, the first of my new advisors: Barney [Barney the Purple Dinosaur and Rep. Barney Frank enter the podium from opposite ends, meeting POTUS at the podium.] Hmm. This is awkward. No matter. Ladies and gentlemen, my other new advisor, Big Bird! [Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Senator Robert Byrd enter the podium from opposite ends, meeting POTUS at the podium.] OK. We will have to sort this out later. In the meantime, I’d like to conclude by introducing a fascinating young man. Consider Conan O’Brien for a moment. Here is a young man who came from obscurity, was given a sidekick with more inside experience, and despite the successes he’s so proud of and mentions to anyone who will listen, 248 million Americans never see him in prime time. Conan, believe me, I feel your pain.