Biden Jokes at D.C. Gridiron Club Dinner, Mixing Comedy With Dire Warnings

President Biden delivered a mix of jokes and pointed criticisms at the expense of the presumptive Republican nominee, former President Donald J. Trump, at the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington on Saturday.

“One candidate’s too old and mentally unfit to be president,” Mr. Biden said. “The other guy’s me.”

It was Mr. Biden’s first time since becoming president to attend the dinner, a lighthearted night in a series of high-profile gatherings in Washington where politicians and journalists don white gloves and bow ties to lightly roast each other through speeches and skits. The Gridiron Club, one of the oldest journalism associations in Washington, hosted the dinner at the Grand Hyatt in Washington.

Mr. Biden didn’t just target his opponent, though. He saved time for a dig at congressional Republicans and their efforts to impeach him and his homeland security secretary, Alejandro N. Mayorkas.

“The Republicans would rather fail at impeachment than succeed at anything else,” he said. Referring to Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, who was sitting at his table, Mr. Biden said, “He took one look at Congress and he asked for another Guinness.”

But during the roughly nine-minute remarks, Mr. Biden also took a more serious tone to issue stark warnings about threats to democracy. His aides are hoping that emphasizing the stakes of the election in November will rally voters to the polls amid low approval numbers for Mr. Biden.

“Freedom is under assault,” Mr. Biden said. “The lies about the 2020 election, the plot to overturn it, to embrace the Jan. 6 insurrection, pose the greatest threat to our democracy since the American Civil War.”

“A poison coursing through the veins of our democracy,” Mr. Biden continued. “Disinformation everywhere. There’s a toxic cycle of anger and conspiracy.”

The president also took aim at Mr. Trump’s recent statement about not defending NATO allies who do not pay their dues to the alliance.

“Democracy and freedom are literally under attack,” Mr. Biden said. “Putin’s on the march in Europe. My predecessor bows down to him and says, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’ An American president actually said that.”

The president’s table included Vice President Kamala Harris, his top cabinet officials and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. Mr. Biden also singled out two others at his table: the prime minister of Estonia and the Ukrainian ambassador.

“We will not bow down, they will not bow down and I will not bow down,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden also previewed his campaign while jabbing at one of Mr. Trump’s more memorable suggestions during the Covid pandemic. He promised that his administration would show “how we got through the pandemic, turned around the economy, re-established American leadership in the world — all without encouraging the American people to inject bleach.”

“Or without destroying the economy, embarrassing us around the world or itching for insurrection,” he continued. “Look, I wish these were jokes, but they’re not.”

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