Obama pushes back on criticism regarding social outreach to Congress
January 15th, 2013
07:00 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama pushes back on criticism regarding social outreach to Congress

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama pushed back on criticism that he has not reached out enough to members of Congress socially to help build more personal relationships.

"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 a pretty friendly guy. And I like a good party. And the truth is when I was in the Senate, I had great relationships over there, and up until that point that I became president this was not an accusation that you heard very frequently," the president said at his news conference Monday.

He said some Republicans feel that it doesn't "look real good socializing with me."

Some Congressional Democrats have complained privately to Dana Bash, CNN's senior congressional correspondent, that the president also has not done enough outreach to members of his own party to help build relationships. Members of both parties have said they would like to see the president invite over small groups for intimate dinners that would help build his congressional bonds.

"I promise you, we invite folks from Congress over here all the time. And when they choose to come, I enjoy their company. Sometimes they don't choose to come, and that has to do with the fact that I think they don't consider the optics useful for them politically," Obama said.

He admitted, though, "I can always do a better job."

In an effort to push back on the criticism the president has not done enough outreach, especially with regards to socializing with Republicans, a Democratic source provided to CNN a list of times Republican members of Congress did not accept invitations to White House events, such as receptions and a Super Bowl viewing.

House Speaker John Boehner did not accept invitations to state dinners for Great Britain, South Korea, Germany, China, Mexico and India, according to the source.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also did not accept some White House invitations, according to the Democratic source, including to a couple of state dinners and to a celebration of the University of Kentucky's basketball championship. A spokesman for McConnell responded that the senator was unable to go to these specific events because "he was in Kentucky with his
constituents." He was also invited to a screening of the movie "Lincoln," but the Senate was in session at the time.

A spokesman for Boehner did not respond to a request for a comment.

The president has previously said he prefers to spend as much time as possible during the evenings with his daughters to help preserve family time. In a lighter tone, noting that his daughters are getting older and that they might not want to spend as much time with him, he said that he be able to reach out more.

"So I'll probably be calling around, looking for somebody to play cards with me or something, because I'm getting kind of lonely in this big house. So maybe a whole bunch of members of the House of Representatives caucus want to come over and socialize more," the president said.

In an interview in August with Jessica Yellin, CNN's chief White House correspondent, Obama also talked about possibly having more time to reach out to Congress because of his daughters growing up.

"I served, obviously in Congress with a lot of the folks who are up there and had a great relationship with them. And my hope is that getting past this election people will have an opportunity to maybe step back and say, 'You know what? The differences that divide us aren't as important as the common bonds we have as Americans.' "

He added: "Some of that I'm sure will require additional effort on my part. Hopefully, we'll see more effort on the other side as well."

He also described how he and his wife have been reluctant to hit the social circuit in Washington because of the family.

"Sometimes Michelle and I not doing the circuit and going out to dinners with folks is perceived as us being cool. It actually really has more with us being parents. The fact is that you know we're the first family occupying the White House in a long time that had young kids," Obama said. "One of the pledges we made was 'You know what? We need to make sure that we're good parents and – and we're there for our kids.'"

He said he wants to be at the dinner table at 6:30, and sometimes on the weekends, they would turn down invitations "because we're trying to carve out family time." He added, "I think that's sometimes interpreted as, you know, me not wanting to, you know be out there slapping backs and wheeling and dealing. That really has more to do with just the stage we are in our lives."


Filed under: Congress • President Obama • Washington
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. onlyfacts

    This man has no ego. He seems to be such a good person. I think he'll go far.

    January 15, 2013 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  2. Name

    It's not me it's them

    January 15, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  3. Gurgyl

    Republicans raised debt ceiling for Wars in Bush, Reagan eras. Clinton left huge surplus. Obama was handed with huge problems–Bush broke USA practically. Now now wars, focus on USA why problem. Debt is not the problem–paying taxes by rich is the problem. So cry on debt. Nonsense. GOP is doomed.

    January 15, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  4. Marcia

    the Repubs have never tried to work with this President-McConnell said it was the goal of Repubs to make Obama a one term President and did everything in their power to defeat him-and they have never given up trying to defeat everything Obama proposed-even if it was something the Repubs wanted-their treatment of Obama has been perverse and they deserve much of the blame-they would take the entire country down just to get Obama-WHY????????

    January 15, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  5. jkane sfl gop mascots the blubbering slobs allen west rover nitwitquest rick scott ,carl rove and donald dump ??????

    People in congress are quiting because their sick of the gop bafoon party obstruction,so how can you blame the president for not wanting to associatei with these gop failures and low lifes ????

    January 15, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  6. Candice Taylor

    This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. So congressmen are like children who Obama didn't invite over for playtime? Another excuse for being totally obstructionist and trying to undermine the presidents popularity with the American people. Get over it congress! Spend your time doing your job!

    January 15, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  7. Jerubbaal

    Ask Chris Christie about hanging out with Obama? How did that turn out for him. Spend the time with your girls, you are a father and husband first, being the Pres is just your job.

    January 15, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  8. James Bond

    Governer snyder has not talked to dems in over a year, he said, i know what they want, and my staff represents both sides of a contrversial bill, and my favorite, my meeting with democrats are of limited value, now dont that make you just want to vote a straight republican ticket next time?

    January 15, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    House Speaker John Boehner did not accept invitations to state dinners for Great Britain, South Korea, Germany, China, Mexico and India, according to the source.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also did not accept some White House invitations, according to the Democratic source, including to a couple of state dinners and to a celebration of the University of Kentucky's basketball championship.
    -------------------------------------------------
    So what State Dinners was Boehner sober enough to attend? Any at all?
    Maybe it is just me but I cannot begin to imagine turning down the President of the United States' invitation to dinner, to the White House, or heavens forbid a State Dinner. Whether the invitation originated from our current President or the village idiot from Crawford Texas it would make no difference.
    Has politics, or more than likely disrespect borne out of contempt for President Obama completely obliterated their good manners?
    Sad state of affairs.
    To the President I say continue to put your family first because when this is all said and done, as with all things in life, it is those moments that you spent with them that will outlast everything and everyone else.
    I certainly would NOT put the people that you'r surrounded by based on how you've been treated above a stray dog, much less my family.

    January 15, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  10. James Bond

    Hate me some mr snyder, no spine,and zero chance of re election, gaurenteed

    January 15, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  11. Al-NY,NY

    It doesn't matter what Obama does in terms of reaching out to the Tan Man or Mumble Mouth McConnell. Whatever he is for, they are against and it's not going to change if they get together for a state dinner, a SB viewing or a shot at the local tavern (although Tan Man may on that one...). They will not work with him in any way and will obstruct everything he proposes

    January 15, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |