If President Obama hung out more with congressional lawmakers would more get done?
Critics often have accused Obama and his White House of being too insular, pointing to the good old days when presidents and lawmakers met regularly for poker games or a drink. In the last press conference of his first term on Monday, Obama defended his social skills and said that he's a "pretty friendly guy." But he also expressed doubt that forging personal relationships with members of Congress does much for their working relationships.
"When I'm over here at the congressional picnic and folks are coming up and taking pictures with their family, I promise you Michelle and I are very nice to them and we have a wonderful time. But that doesn't prevent them from going on the floor of the House and blasting me for being a big-spending socialist," he said.
The president added that lawmakers base their votes less on how they feel about him than on how they will play back home.
In some cases, they're also concerned about how socializing with Obama will look back home, causing them to turn down invitations. The president recently invited lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to a special screening of the film Lincoln, and not one Republican turned up. House Speaker John Boehner has not accepted any invitations to White House state dinners and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has attended just one. He also declined an invitation celebrating his home-state University of Kentucky’s NCAA basketball championship.
But as daughters Malia and Sasha grow more interested in hanging with their friends than their parents, Obama quipped, he's getting "kind of lonely in this big house" and might start looking for more opportunities to socialize.
"I'll be probably calling around looking for somebody to play cards with me or something," he said. "Maybe a whole bunch of members of the House Republican caucus want to come over and socialize more."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)