Rick Perry, largely out of the national spotlight since folding his presidential campaign in January, gave a zinger-packed speech to a room full of journalists—but no cameras —at the annual Gridiron Dinner Saturday night in Washington, D.C.
“Here’s the hardest part for me,” Perry said. “The weakest Republican field in history—and they kicked my butt!”
The Texas Tribune dispatched Emily Ramshaw to cover the dinner. She reported that Perry’s line calling his short lead in the presidential primary “the three most exhilarating hours of my life” was greeted with “uproarious applause.”
Here are Perry’s ten best lines from the night, culled from Ramshaw and Politico‘s Caitlin McDevitt:
On Mitt Romney: “Y’know, I say stuff like Solyndra’s a country or that the voting age is 21. But Mitt would say things like his wife drives a coupla Cadillacs, or his pals own NASCAR teams. Y’know, my problem was sayin’ stuff that wasn’t right. Mitt’s problem is sayin’ stuff that is.”
On Romney: “I like Mitt Romney. I mean, I like Mitt Romney as much as one really good looking man can like a really good looking man—and not break Texas law.”
On Newt Gingrich: “I endorsed him because he said he would name me commander of Moon Base Alpha.”
On Rick Santorum: “I used to have SO much fun needling Rick. I’d say, ‘Now, Rick, tell me again, which one of the Village People are you? You’re the policeman? Or you’re the Indian?’”
On Ron Paul: “He kinda reminds me of that crazy uncle that you expect to pull a nickel out of your ear.”
On Herman Cain: “If you can’t make fun of yourself, there’s always Herman Cain.”
On President Obama: “I read that he is in Korea, at the DMZ. Would somebody tell me: Why do ya have to go all the way to Korea to get a driver’s license? Must be something to do with that birth certificate thing.”
On his sub-par debate performances: “What a relief to be on a stage with just one podium.”
On Bush: “Some have said that my debating style is very similar to that other Texas Cicero, George W. Bush. Only difference between George and me is that I say, ‘Oops.’”
Perry also had genuinely sweet words about the young reporters who covered his campaign, as Politico‘s Mike Allen pointed out:
Most of the reporters and the correspondents trailing us weren’t well-known. They weren’t established journalists like Dan and the members of this club. But they were often the younger reporters, on the lower rungs of the business. I wasn’t always happy about what they wrote—but they became part of the traveling family, because our lives became intertwined. They ate the same crappy campaign food; they got up at the same early hour; they heard the same speech, over and over. But I honestly got the sense that they were sad to see our campaign end. Anita and I still keep up with ’em. As a matter of fact, we just got a note from one just the other day. I saw one tonight as I came in. So, tonight, I’d like to close not by recognizing you big shots in the business out there—but all those reporters who are out there workin’ – workin’ their butts off, worryin’ about the future of newspapers, worryin’ about whether or not the news budget is gonna be cut. I truly like ’em and respect ’em. And I hope one day those reporters in that caravan following our bus make it to this illustrious dinner — and are up on that stage, doing those skits and enjoying the rewards of their professional success, like we are tonight.