Monday, January 14, 2013

Obama at presser: "I like a good party"

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Today, President Obama conducted the last official news conference of his first term, where much of the discussion centered around the next fiscal go 'round that could get intense — the debate about raising the debt ceiling level.

But among all the policy questions, perhaps the most interesting query came at the end of the presser from New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes. Calmes asked Obama about something that has been said and written about the president — from both Republicans and Democrats — so frequently, it must be valid: Is it true that unlike Bill Clinton, or LBJ, this president doesn't really like to socialize with members of Congress? That he has little to no relationships with anybody on Capitol Hill? In other words, that he's anti-social.

Obama seemed hurt by the thought.

With respect to this truism about me not socializing enough and patting folks on the back and all that stuff, most people who know me know I'm — I'm a pretty friendly guy. And I like a good party. And you know, the truth is that, you know, when I was in the Senate, I had great relationships over there, and up until the point that I became president, this was not an accusation that you heard very frequently.

Obama followed up for a few more minutes, even bringing up his new friend Charlie Crist, saying his unpopularity with Republicans after the infamous hug in 2009 "testifies to that, and I think a lot of folks say, well, you know, if we look like we're being too cooperative or too chummy with the president, that might cause us problems. That might be an excuse for us to get a challenge from somebody in a primary. So that tends to be the challenge."

The comments led to a Twitter storm, with people making fun of Obama's complaint about being lonely in the White House.

The second part of Calmes question regarded the fact that most of Obama's second-term cabinet appointees (so far) are all white men. This has led critics to carp that while liberals mocked Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" comment at one of the presidential debates last fall, at least he had recommendations about choosing female appointees.

So far this year, Obama nominated John Kerry for Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel for Defense, Jack Lew at Treasury, and John Brennan at CIA, all men who are melanin challenged. Obama told people to wait until he's done with his appointments before questioning him.

You know, I’m very proud that in the first four years we had as diverse, if not more diverse, a White House and a Cabinet than any in history. And I intend to continue that because it turns out that when you look for the very best people, given the incredible diversity of this country, you're going to end up with a diverse staff and diverse — a diverse team, and that very diversity helps to create more effective policymaking and better decision-making for me because it brings different perspectives to the table.

So if you think about my first four years, the person who probably had the most influence on my foreign policy was a woman. The people who were in charge of moving forward my most important domestic initiative, health care, were women. The person in charge of our homeland security was a woman. My two appointments to the Supreme Court were women. And 50 percent of my White House staff were women. So I think people should expect that that record will be built upon during the next four years.

Now, what, I've made four appointments so far? And one woman, admittedly a high-profile one, is leaving the — has already left the administration, and I have made a replacement.

But I would just suggest that everybody kind of wait until they've seen all my appointments, who's in the White House staff and who’s in my Cabinet, before they rush to judgment.

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