Obama dinged Leno as "the only person whose ratings fell more than mine." Obama also said he was glad he was appearing before Leno.
Obama told the 3,000-strong mix of celebrities, elected officials, political appointees and journalists that "we've all seen what happens when you take the time slot after Leno." Comic Conan O'Brien left NBC after his stint hosting "The Tonight Show" following Leno didn't work out.
The president also noted McCain's claim this year that he was not identified as a maverick. Obama quipped "we know what happens in Arizona when you don't have an ID. . . . Adios amigos" in reference to McCain's home state of Arizona's new immigration law.
Obama gave a relatively low-key speech and acknowledged the problems facing the Gulf coast after the disastrous BP oil spill. Early in his talk, Obama said that he debated whether he should appear at the dinner at all because he's been very busy.
Leno followed, and joked that for the gathered press, it was "as close to a White House press conference they've had in about a year. . . . Enjoy it."
He ribbed Republicans about questionable spending of party funds, saying some of them couldn't make it because it was "dollar drink night at the bondage club."