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Obama, back from Hollywood, tackles Mideast peace. Hmmm, is there a reality TV show in there?

May 28, 2009 | 12:53 pm

President Obama talks to celebrities in Los Angeles May 27, 2009

In the early weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama felt hemmed in by the Washington bubble.

Tom Daschle, his nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services, was hitting some unexpected bumps in Congress as senators raised questions about a certain $120,000 bill in unpaid taxes. Eventually the former Senate majority leader took himself out of the running.

Republicans were voting in lock step against the president's economic stimulus package. Eventually, the $787-billion bill passed with only three Republican votes, including one from Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, who's now a Democrat.

So Obama told his aides that he wanted to get out of Washington every so often, to do an occasional town hall, field a question from a critic, have an impromptu meal at a local dive, feel the love.

Today he returned from a two-day trip to Nevada and California, where he raised more than $6 million for the Democratic National Committee, mingled with the stars and celebrities in Hollywood, even made his peace with officials in Nevada still smarting over the president's admonition to companies like AIG getting government bailout money not to take junkets in Las Vegas on the taxpayer's dime.

Now he returns to an even trickier negotiation. Meeting this afternoon with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office, followed by a private session with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama is hoping to lay the groundwork for his trip to Egypt next week.

Talk about getting out of town.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Jason Reed / Reuters