The joke was that Obama wasn’t joking

Ezra Klein and Dylan Matthews on Vox:

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner has become a strange event. It is, ostensibly, an evening when the president and the press can come together to share a few lighthearted laughs. But it’s evolved into a recital of brutal truths — albeit one neither side ever really admits happened.

The joke of President Obama’s performance on Saturday was that he wasn’t joking. Everyone just had to pretend he was. This was true from the beginning of his remarks, when he walked to the podium to Anna Kendrick’s cover of “Cups” (chorus: “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”).

“You can’t say it, but you know it is true,” he told the crowd, grinning. The implication was clear: my approval ratings are going up. Unemployment dipped below 5 percent this year. My financial reforms are working, and tens of millions of people have gotten coverage through Obamacare. And the Republicans are about to nominate Donald freakin Trump. You don’t know how lucky you had it with me.

There is some truth to the point of view Klein and Matthews are attributing to Obama. But let’s not make too much of it. Also under Obama, we’ve seen massive bailouts to big business, increasing wealth concentration at the expense of the middle class and poor, eroding Constitutional rights, heightened government secrecy, and continuation of America’s forever wars. The Obama White House ain’t Camelot.