June 26th, 2014
08:26 PM ET
4 weeks ago

Obama, the ‘Bear,’ is loose and trying to reconnect with voters

(CNN) President Barack Obama first said it two weeks ago during an impromptu walk from the White House to the Interior Department and then again during a quick coffee run to Starbucks just last Monday.

"The bear is loose," he said.

And now he’s modified his new-found catch phrase. At a town hall event in Minnesota on Thursday, he added for emphasis: "I'm feeling super loose today."


More than five years into his presidency, with its bubble-like quality that insulates office-holders from both security threats and opposing points of view, Obama has a sudden urge to free himself from the White House gates and the Beltway noise.

In other words, it's becoming clear what this bear wants – not an escape back to the wilderness, but some quality time with spectators standing just outside the fence.

"Look, I've been really looking forward to getting out of D.C.," Obama told the town hall crowd. "With Secret Service, I always tease them that I'm like a caged bear and every once in a while, I've got to break loose."

That means breaking loose to a Chipotle, as the President did earlier this week, famously reaching over the sneeze guard, breaching another barrier between him and everyday Americans.

After initially characterizing the fast food stops and walks as a president working through a little cabin fever, White House spokesman Josh Earnest hinted at a desire to reconnect with voters.

"He is looking for as many opportunities as he can to try to get some access and some insight into what are the challenges that people are facing," Earnest said.

That hunger to engage with voters was evident in Obama’s comments on Thursday.

After fielding more than an hour of town hall questions ranging from gun control to pay for federal workers, Obama vented his own anger with Washington.

"We've got a Congress that's dysfunctional, I'll be honest with you. You've got a party on the other side whose only rationale, motivation seems to be opposing me," Obama said.

But with several recent public opinion polls finding the President's approval ratings approaching record lows, the "bear" is not the popular exhibit he once was in the nation's political zoo.

"The more President Obama gets out and spends time with real people, the more it highlights the dysfunction in Washington," former deputy White House senior adviser Stephanie Cutter, a CNN political analyst, said about his trips beyond the bubble.

"I guarantee you, no one is talking about John Boehner's lawsuit," Cutter added in reference to the Republican House speaker's threat to sue Obama over his uses of executive power without consulting Congress.

"But they are talking about what the President has done with his own authority to lower the cost of student loans, make work pay and other things he's done," she said.

Describing himself as no regular viewer of television news, Obama also accused the media of ignoring the issues that matter most to voters, in favor of partisan rancor and sensational headlines.

"That must feel frustrating, and makes people feel cynical, and it makes people feel turned off to the idea that anything can get done," Obama said.

During his two-day trip to Minnesota, Obama spent a few hours with Rebekah Erler, who wrote a letter to him lamenting her struggles to make ends meet.

Obama and Erler sat down for lunch before the town hall meeting and other stops for ice cream and groceries prior to his fundraiser Thursday night.

Obama told the town hall audience that he ran for office because of people like Erler, whose difficulties, he insisted, mirrored his own as a young man.

"I don't want you to ever forget that and I don't want you to be cynical. Cynicism is popular these days but hope is better," Obama said, echoing the themes that launched his political career, before the White House fences started closing in on him.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. bill

    read the books of Kings in the old testament and y ou will see the parallel with king obama-scary.

    June 26, 2014 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  2. Gunderson

    Huh?,
    If you don't want to do the job you ran for why are you still here? Obama Care has killed tons of jobs. I wonder what gimmick your handlers will dream up for you next. So far none of them are working.

    June 26, 2014 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  3. Thomas

    John Boehner doesn't have a leg to stand on in court , even Dick Cheney will tell you that .

    June 26, 2014 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  4. Jay Walker

    More death threats and vitriol aimed at him than any president in history. It's a damn shame because public officials need to do this more often, not just during election years.

    June 26, 2014 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  5. Wes

    'The Bear' is a disaster.

    June 26, 2014 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    He is simply campaigning to win votes in November. That's ALL he ever does.........other than commit crimes against citizens.

    June 26, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  7. Iamnotfooled

    "We've got a Congress that's dysfunctional, I'll be honest with you. You've got a party on the other side whose only rationale, motivation seems to be opposing me," Obama said.
    So true. Sick of Congress wasting our time and money.

    June 26, 2014 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  8. Gowdy girl

    Gutfeld is right, he should be impeached simply for reaching over the sneeze guard, talk about out of touch.

    June 26, 2014 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  9. john smith

    He's so cool.

    June 26, 2014 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  10. ED1

    Obama has never cared about the American people just another Democrat getting a tax paid job, retirement, and vacations at our expense.

    June 26, 2014 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  11. barky

    Go back to your den.

    June 26, 2014 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  12. Keith

    He is more unpopular than ever and CNN is trying to spin this as some spontaneous outing. It is called damage crontol...and an attempt at public opinion manipulation. Let's be real. I am more concerned about the NSA and the IRS scandals. Those are serious.

    June 27, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  13. YoonYoungJo

    I think one major challenege that many people are concerned about, or should be concerned about that aren't is retirement. This is a major issue in my opinion. SS and Medicare does not provide enough for the elderly to live their lives not just in dignity but with some joy in it as well. Living pay check to pay check just barely covering the medications that keep you alive is not living. I know young people aren't that concerned with but they should be. The MyRA is a small step but it's not enough. Someone who's worked labor jobs or physically harder jobs for 50-60 years deserve to retire and enjoy it a little don't they? Is that what America is about? Working yourself to the bone for 50-60 years just so you can live pay check to pay check barely being able to afford the medications that keep you alive? Our elderly, especially the ones who have worked their butts off deserve a little better than that in my opinion. And to the naysayers who say, they should have saved more, gotten a better education, were smarter in life. I hate to break it to them, not everyone has the capability or talent to do that. Some people, and yes they are still people deserving of respect, just aren't capable of management positions or job positions that pay more.

    June 27, 2014 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  14. MMECitizen

    He is campaigning again (always). He needs to stay in the WH, handle the daily crisis that seem to pop up in every department he oversees and try to handle the foreign policy that he doesn't have a clue about. Reconnecting with the voters should be the last thing on his mind.

    June 27, 2014 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  15. Neal

    Total dribble :-(

    June 27, 2014 05:14 am at 5:14 am |
  16. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Nice for red meat Friday.

    June 27, 2014 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  17. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Oh boy, the hate this article is going to generate....

    June 27, 2014 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  18. Anonymous

    There is a Million dollars ( $1,000,000.00) awaiting some IT person (or anyone) willing to bring forth the missing emails.

    Watch this Administration scramble and call this a scandal and that it is phony !

    June 27, 2014 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  19. Marie MD

    It's about time! There's nothing the teaklan losers can do against you. Go after them in a legal way if they don't want to advance our country.

    June 27, 2014 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  20. Harry Legg

    There is a lot of hate for this man out in the real world I hope the secret service stay close.

    June 27, 2014 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  21. just asking

    yes, this is one of the ways to try and get the headlines off of all his administration's scandals, failures and international disasters. smoke and mirrors is all this guy knows how to do.

    June 27, 2014 07:31 am at 7:31 am |