WASHINGTON - Despite a heavy snow storm and a sore throat suffered when he almost choked on his inauguration speech, President George W. Bush braved a limousine ride through Washington streets to attend the annual Alfalfa Club dinner. Founded in 1913, the Alfalfa Club is named after the alfalfa plant, whose roots will go to great lengths to find liquid refreshment. The 200-member club is limited to persons whom the president described as "my favorite constituents: the haves and the have mores." The sole purpose of the club is to hold an annual dinner and humorous speech contest to celebrate the birthday of "that great American patriot General Robert E. Lee," who would have been 198 this year.
President Bush outspoke four other contestants to win the Alfalfa Speech Cup, which is filled with simulated ashes of General Lee. The president's speech, "Why I'm Glad the Other Guy Didn't Win the Election," was hailed by many as a classic.
"I laughed so hard I nearly threw up," said the president's father, George H.W. Bush. "The little sprout was in rare form tonight, rare form indeed. I haven't laughed so hard since he told me he wanted to be a cheerleader when he got to Yale."
The president had the audience doubled over from his opening line: "I know a lot of you think I'm gonna win tonight because I brought my own judges, the Supreme Court; but in the interest of fair play-and in honor of General Lee-I'm not gonna let the colored, the women, or the Jews on the court vote."
In a speech that was interrupted by laughter more times than his inaugural address, Bush said he was glad "what's-his-face" didn't win because if he had, the insurgents in Iraq would pose a grave threat to the coming elections, Iran would be developing nuclear weapons against our wishes, and Tony Blair would be sitting on somebody else's lap tonight."
The brilliance of the president's speech overshadowed a solid effort by vice president Dick Cheney, who delivered a Steven Wright style monologue entitled "Things I've Learned While Running the Country." Claiming he couldn't remember meeting the president "until tonight," Cheney brought the house down with his closing remarks: "Well, folks, my pacemaker tells me my time is almost up. You've been a great audience. Enjoy the coming wars."
In addition to hearing speeches by the president and the vice president, Alfalfa Club members were entertained by incoming Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Fox News Bill O'Reilly, and gun nut Charlton Heston. Rice, who refused to let her lack of a sense of humor stand in her way, elicited mild titters from the audience when she said, "Jumping isn't the only thing white men can't do . . . they can't dance either."
O'Reilly used a cell phone as a prop while conducting a hilarious X-rated mock interview with a woman applying for a director's job on his show. Heston sang a devastating parody of the Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." Then he pulled out a Glock and attempted to shoot down the chandelier. He was wrestled to the floor by the president's mother, who was about to ram the gun down his throat when secret service agents intervened.