While oil spills, Obama picnics with Congress (but not on a gulf beach)
The occasion Tuesday evening was yet another party at the White House, this one for members of Congress to celebrate what host President Obama called the "incredible sacrifices" they make, working and living in Washington on their perks and $174,000 a year salaries.
It was a president's annual congressional picnic and a time to kick back after passing the $787-billion stimulus bill that stimulated unemployment up near 10% and the wildly unpopular healthcare bill that a majority of Americans want repealed because it will help increase the deficit.
Since American voters awarded Democrats large majority control of both houses of Congress and the White House in 2008, there were more Democrats on hand for the outdoor fest.
Also, judging by numerous recent polls of likely voters in this fall's midterm elections, this June White House picnic is likely to be the last that many members of Congress of either party will be entitled to attend. (Americans now see Obama as a partisan Democrat)
Some people might see the president and a self-congratulating Congress still partying every couple of days as a seeping symbol of Washington's tone-deaf disconnect from the life and concerns of everyday Americans. So, of course the president noted the nation's largest-ever environmental catastrophe in his remarks (full text below). The oil-spill has....
...become the new "must-mention" of any Democrat's public remarks.
Earlier Tuesday Obama admitted on the "Today Show" that more than seven weeks after the deadly explosion and oil leak began, he has yet to talk with the CEO of BP, Tony Hayward. But the president is regularly briefed and will revisit the gulf states overnight next week.
The nation's chief executive said that even during the long-scheduled summer picnic he was watching the gulf situation with "deep concern" and predicted the spill will "put more additional pressure on Congress to work with states and the administration to help deal with this tragedy and this crisis."
He also praised congressional families and the band.
Although Obama has observed no "appetite" in Congress to address the pressing illegal immigrant issue this year, there was some good news at the picnic. The president noted that the members of Congress and their families were porking away so much of the free food that there would not be "a lot of leftovers."
-- Andrew Malcolm
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THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Well, how’s the food? (Cheers and applause.) We could not have a more beautiful day for this annual picnic, and we are just thrilled that all of you had a chance to get over. I know that folks were running a little bit late, many of you because of votes. But, you know, the fact of the matter is, is that we have had as tough a year and a half as America has seen in a couple of generations, and that's meant that Congress has had to do more on a whole range of issues.Right now obviously we’re looking at what’s happening in the Gulf with deep concern, and that's going to put more additional pressure on Congress to work with states and the administration to help deal with this tragedy and this crisis.
It is important, though, given the incredible sacrifices that so many of you have made and frankly, from my perspective, just as important are the sacrifices that your family makes -- you being away, you missing family events -- that every once in a while we have an opportunity to get together and for me to say thank you to you for your incredible devotion to the country, regardless of party, and for both Michelle and I to say to your families how grateful we are for your service, and hopefully to have a little bit of time for fun and for fellowship and to remind ourselves of what’s so important in life.
So I’m thrilled to see all the young people here who are here today. And we hope that you have a wonderful time. Band, you guys are great as always. (Applause.) Chefs, I think people are all voting with their mouths around here. (Applause.) I suspect there’s not going to be a lot of leftovers.
And on behalf of Michelle and myself, we hope that you enjoy the evening, and we are grateful to all of you for being here. So thank you very much. (Applause.) ####
Photo: Charlie Riedel / Associated Press (an oil boom sweeps the Gulf of Mexico).