February 1st, 2009
09:20 AM ET
11 years ago

Obama gets laughs at Alfalfa dinner

Colin Powell chats with other guests at the Alfalfa dinner in Washington on Saturday night.

Colin Powell chats with other guests at the Alfalfa dinner in Washington on Saturday night.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama poked fun Saturday night at his chief of staff and ribbed Washington's elite during a black-tie dinner at Alfalfa Club, a 93-year-old Washington social club.

The first African-American president began by poking fun at the club's historical roots.

"I know that many you are aware that this dinner began almost 100 years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee," Obama said, referring to the man who commanded the Confederate army during the Civil War.

"If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old. And very confused."

The ceremony was closed to the media. But the White House released excerpts of the president's remarks.

The Alfalfa Club was started by four Southerners in Washington's Willard Hotel in 1913. Its sole purpose was an annual night out for the boys, and it took its name from a thirsty plant that sends its roots deep down looking for liquid refreshment.

The club remained exclusively open to men until 1994, when women were admitted as members.

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Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Billy in KS

    Well isn't that nice... Obama and his cronies yuking it up at black-tie dinners.... while they run the economy down the crapper!

    February 1, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. Alfalfa Club Dinner?

    The Lee was a scumbag.

    February 1, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  3. S Callahan

    The origin of this group's meaning is 'deep roots'....roots that wrap around and smother the life blood out of anything in it's way.....

    I don't know about you but it disturbs me that he allowed himself to attend this dinner......the exclusive club is not feeling the vibration of the citizens.... I pray this laugh is not on us.

    February 1, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  4. Independent

    Billy-Babou--your name sounds like southern white trash...

    February 1, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  5. there still should be no women in the club

    the masons don't have women, soroieties and fraternities keep gender lines

    I think some of that is a good thing

    February 1, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. Romney2012

    Obama spouting off about Robert E. Lee....I'd like to see Obama come face to face with Lee, a true southern gentleman....Obama would be peeing his pants. His arrogance, along with the likes of Colin Powell, is astounding....both riding the carpet of pretending to represent the black man, however, both are practically white, and serve only one thing; their desire to control.

    February 1, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  7. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Obama taught Constitutional Law at Howard University so I'd be careful about attempting to dissecting anything he says, you see Palin kept her mouth shut.

    February 1, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. chris

    to Ackermaniac

    "General Lee did not advocate slavery; and, so I have read, declined President Lincoln's offer to command the Union forces only because of Lee's greater loyatly to his native state, Virginia."

    Well isn't that nice, he did not advocate it but he owned slaves. Not impressed

    February 1, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. wisocn

    I can't believe all these politicians and our leader are partying in D.C. when there are so many people suffering in the midwest without electricity or heat. Where is all the outrage from this? Now that the Dems are in charge they don't care about the white people in the midwest. They hope they all freeze because it will eventually help the economy. I know this isn't true but in a way part of it is. They don't care because it's not a Republican in office.

    February 1, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    General Lee confused? By the mere existence of a black president? Not in the slightest. The man was brilliant, possibly one of the most brilliant men of the American nineteenth century.

    "We made a great mistake in the beginning of our struggle, and I fear, in spite of all we can do, it will prove to be a fatal mistake. We appointed all our worst generals to command our armies, and all our best generals to edit the newspapers." - R. E. Lee

    February 1, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Marie

    When he joked aboutif those were wondering who had he's who has his email address to his blackberry that was really funny ......Having the guest to look to each person sitting to their right and left and then informed them that none of them had his email address.I BETCHA Palin and McCain was sitting next to each other boy that would have been a prize shot

    February 1, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Judy

    Why oh why is CNN SO obsessed with President Obama's race? This is becoming ridiculous! He is the President of the United States of America. His race is not relevant to every single article on CNN. Campbell Brown and Wolf Blitzer frame almost every conversation about President Obama by his race. Give it a break.

    February 1, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. Marie

    When he joked about if those were wondering who has his email address to his blackberry that was really funny ……Having the guest to look to each person sitting to their right and left and then informed them that none of them had his email address.I BETCHA Palin and McCain was sitting next to each other boy that would have been a prize shot

    February 1, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. Maggie SC

    There seems to be a lot of confused people today and most likely it started where the Alfa dinner member are.

    February 1, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. Natalie

    Yes, Lee would be confused like some of the current confederates today who still believe there is a superior race, when really we are all equal. No one is better than the other.

    February 1, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. joe smith

    winning over the other side, and keeping your base content, one needs to make light of the everyday..you have won more than half the battle..good politics. now the ice storm in our mid-section points up the need for our intrastructure to come to grips with their failings. simple tree cutting near power transmission lines on a regular basis, could minimize this recent hardship. the cleaning out of our streams of debree as well, would eliminate the need of FEMA handing out checks everytime there's high water..maybe some the $800 billion could be earmarked for such activity..

    February 1, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. DCnative in LA

    For all the racists, republicans, and skeptics. Bottom line the election is over. Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States.
    GET OVER IT! If you even looked like you wanted to support George Bush then you should be begging to support Obama. How can anyone that doesnt support Obama because they are racist or republican support someone who is functionally retarded but not support someone who taught Constitutional Law at Harvard University? You praised an idiot with a C average but now because his skin color is different you find fault? GET OVER IT!

    February 1, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. Griff

    And why not? Who would dare do otherwise, to a King..

    February 1, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. Independent voter

    Again, history is being made by this amazing president and I am so glad to call him "Our president". Go Obama!!!

    February 1, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. Marie

    Billy Bayou I can't amagine seeing a laugh on you face that night of Nov 4th when he was named our 44th president elect president

    February 1, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Marie

    Billy Bayou I can't imagine seeing a laugh on your face the night of Nov4th 2008 when Obama was announced President elect where you ?
    And JC you can't be serious calling him a comic because if he's a comic then Sara Palin is MotherTeresa.To see that woman run for vp now that was a comic..I think people just tuned in just to get a laugh at whatever came out of her mouth .And finally Scott no he didn't get his name from Spanky on the little rascals but he may have gotten it from your grandfather and great-grandfather in case you forgot about the female slaves that were sexually abused

    February 1, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  22. nclaw441

    I guess attending these elite parties and spending scads of money while our economy suffers is part of "the change" Obama promised. Other than Obama's race, I have yet to see any change in how this country is run. Old democrat faces in charge; tax and spend programs masquerading as economic stimulus; a policy stating that Gitmo is to be closed, but not specifying when; "doubling down" in Afghanistan, but with no plan stated– how is any of this "change you can believe in"???

    February 1, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  23. Chris E

    Can someone please tell me how in the world can these people be in DC partying when so many people suffering in the midwest without electricity or heat. Way to go DC you know who need to be first in these hard times that we are having.

    February 1, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  24. neal

    I dont believe he meant that Lee would be confused by a black president. He would be confused because he would be 200+ years old and likely pretty senile at that age.....

    February 1, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. Linda

    It's no wonder the Republicans are all getting voted out, with this kind of hate they created among the sickest of the Mentally ill. Do u really think you can EVER be a majority, let alone have a say?

    Let me tell you...the majority don't want to hear you anymore. We the people made our choice, and the next choice is to get you all out of office. We've heard enough from you and your sicko THUGS!

    February 1, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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