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Obama Leaves Beltway Bubble to Visit Ordinary Americans; The Trip Was Short

5 years ago
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With all the partisan bickering going on in Washington, it seems only natural that President Barack Obama -- like so many other presidents before him -- would yearn to get beyond the Beltway and hear the concerns of ordinary Americans. On Monday, the commander in chief did just that -- sort of.

The president chose as his getaway the Fairfax, Va., home of John Nicholas and Nicole Armstrong, who live with their two children in leafy enclave of Mantua. The residence is beyond the Beltway, but only just so -- about 14 miles from the White House. "You're in a bubble when you're president," Obama said upon arrival. "These kinds of formats are terrific for me."

In 2008, the median family income in Fairfax was $126,910, while in 2010, the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent -- putting the Washington suburb far ahead of the rest of the country in both income and employment. But perhaps that's begrudging the president too much -- after all, sometimes a schedule has to be kept, and long distance travel just isn't in the cards. And, to be fair, President Obama spent much of the summer making the rounds to places where Americans are really feeling the heat.

Yet if the president's goal was to have an honest conversation with the American electorate and make the case for his administration's efforts to rescue the U.S. economy, away from the opinion polling and freed from the (cough) distorted lens of the media, then this remained a curious choice. The crowd gathered -- small business owners, educators, tech specialists, a massage therapist and two state officials (among others) -- seemed already, distinctly, on his side.

Nary a critical question was asked, save for one woman who worked in the Fairfax County public school system and began her remarks by telling Obama: "I love everything you're doing. I love your vision. I'm so glad you got into office." Then she said: "I haven't had a raise in two years and I may not even have a job next year, because I hear it's going to get worse before it gets better. Do you agree with that?" She continued, "I know jobs are starting to come back, but how long do you think this is going to take?" Then she quickly added, referring to a post-recovery America, "It sounds wonderful."

Responding to her question, the president highlighted steps made by Democrats and his administration to save teacher jobs, reserving criticism for Republican resistance to the efforts. Other questions involved stem cell research; small business lending; historic preservation; union concerns, including the Employee Free Choice Act; partisan politics; and the climate of economic fear plaguing the country.

To all of them, the president had rather lengthy responses, mostly detailing efforts the White House had made to address those very same concerns -- the executive order supporting stem cell research, the small business bill Obama has been pushing for months, support for organized labor via the creation of skilled jobs in new technology, and a belief that Democrats and Republicans could come together on energy, immigration and education policy -- despite differences the two parties have on issues like the Bush tax cuts. He even managed to turn the historic preservation question into an opportunity to highlight the federal government's campaign to retrofit homes and make them more energy efficient. The audience seemed pleased.

Ah well, if it wasn't an electric back-and-forth, at least it was honest? Maybe. After the event, Rep. Gerry Connolly, who had been sitting in the audience, answered questions from reporters about his stance on the Bush tax cuts -- namely, that he believed they should be extended for both middle class and wealthy Americans -- a position shared by House Minority Leader (and current White House boogieman) Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio). Maybe the congressman was just too polite to bring it up? By then, anyway, the motorcade had already rolled through the streets of Fairfax, the president waving cheerily at the event's attendees, on his way back to the bubble.

A few minutes after the last black SUV turned toward 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., a small group of protesters emerged from a shaded corner where they had been holding signs. "Save Our Children," read one sign. "Stop Wasting Money," said another. A small FreedomWorks sticker at the bottom of one placard clued onlookers in on their affiliation: Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement. They were, perhaps, a remaining contingent from this weekend's rally on the National Mall.

But if the president had missed them along the way, he was sure to have seen the hand-lettered signs posted anonymously throughout the neighborhood, tacked on trees and telephone poles -- ones proclaiming "NOBAMA," and asking, "Where's your birth certificate?"

In the end, it seemed, perhaps the White House strategy of keeping the commander in chief on friendly territory wasn't that misguided, after all.

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No wonder Obama is doing such a poor job as president. He spends all his time campaigning, fund raising, Photo Ops, and playing golf.

September 15 2010 at 1:28 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Where was all this protest over the last 10 years???...Its so funny how now, everyone wants to voice their disapproval all over the country. WHERE WERE YOU WHEN WE WERE BEING DRIVEN INTO THIS HOLE!! Think about it! You can blame President Obama all you want, we all know how we got into this mess.

September 14 2010 at 11:41 AM Report abuse -48 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to tychristopher76's comment

Why do you think the TEA movement started?

September 14 2010 at 12:59 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

you are absolutely correct; we do know how we got into this mess. FDR, Nixon, LBJ gave us the huge government that our legislature rolled over for for the following 40 years, incompetent judges, and incompetent bureaucrats and legislators like Barney frank and Franklin Raines (who actually brought you the financial collapse of 2008).

September 14 2010 at 1:00 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Maybe Wagner would prefer he follow the Bush System. Fly to a scenic area, such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming for four days smoozing with the Hollywood and big business vacation mansion owners, then down to Crawford for 12 days, before jetting to Florida for a weekend with Jeb, of course after a four day stop in Houston with Mommy Dearest and Daddy. Maybe Wagner and the Tea Partiers, discovered as being subsidized by the inherited BiLLIONS of the Koch Brothers, would prefer another idle president to let us drift into a full depression, not just get into a serious recession. Or has Ms. Wagner noticed, this president's first full fiscal year resulted in 8% less federal spending than the last full year of Bush/Cheney. Despite President Obama being left with a whole bunch of royal messes to clean up -- not the least was a Health Insurance industry which saw 1998 NET profits of $2.5-Billion increasing to $12.5-BILLION NET PROFIT in 2008. This at the same time, the Bush/Cheney cronies in the Oil Patch saw record profits and we paid $5.00 per gallon and up for gasoline -- during a time of surplus crude production and inventoriories -- from pure market manipulation of those Bush/Cheney cronies. Golly, Gee Whiz -- Don't we miss the good old days!!

September 14 2010 at 11:28 AM Report abuse -34 rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

Nothing Obama proposes is "new". It's just old recycled 1960's and 1970's liberalism combined with 1940's "new deal" federalism. It will fail as it has done before in the past...

September 14 2010 at 11:10 AM Report abuse +50 rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

Obama is completely out of touch with, "ordinary americans". His policies are proof...

September 14 2010 at 11:06 AM Report abuse +51 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Rob & Kathy's comment

blanket statement with no the policies

September 15 2010 at 1:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Terry Lynn

Well, of course he'll try to save the teachers jobs! Wasn't the teachers union one of his biggest contributors? He needs these teachers to help indoctrinate our children! Long before he announced his bid for presidency, excerpts from both his books appeared in the new 8th grade language arts texts in Florida. No Adams, no Jefferson, no MLK. But words from an unknown, Barack Obama. No other politician quoted in the entire text. I, along with others adamantly let the school district know that the students were NOT to study his passages without introducing other political figures as well. What did they do? Just skipped over him rather than offer quotes from the true great Americans. It's so past time to get the Feds out of public education.

September 14 2010 at 10:22 AM Report abuse +46 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Terry Lynn's comment

For Terry, I didn't finish what I was saying when my computer messed up. My granddaughter was listening to a conversation between her Mom and me about the second world war and how the Japanese were incarcerated in camps and how awful that was and why the government did that, when my granddaughter piped up with the government did that because the Japanese were different. She's 13. She said her teacher told the class that. I told her the teacher was wrong. It is in her History book. I heard on T.V. in the summer that in Texas where the history books were being changed to more modern times that a lot of our past and the truth was being left out. Who gave these people the right to do that, who are they? No wonder our kids are behind other countries. We need good teachers, not ones that tell false tales. To top all this off my daughter is now on our board of education. Can't wait to see what she contributes.

September 14 2010 at 7:58 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Fairfax? Fairfax? Try a town like Lyndonville Vermont or Plattsburg New York or Amarillo Texas. You want real, then get real. Fairfax? LOL

September 14 2010 at 10:20 AM Report abuse +44 rate up rate down Reply

I agree with Sysaphus 71, and in addition, the President needs to extend the tax cuts for all Americans, stop the political blundering from the far left.

September 14 2010 at 9:56 AM Report abuse +35 rate up rate down Reply

How convienient, go to a town with low unemployment and a higher than average median income and ask them how he is doing. History shows that typically those who are doing well or not feeling the economic crunch view the controlling power as being neutral. Yeah, they may feel like some things are being done wrong but don't really care because it does not affect them. Obama wouldnt dare go talk to the true middle class. It's always the upper middle or the lower class. So, it's either spun that everything is great and getting better or this is why we have to spend more money to help these poor people. He needs to go talk to someone that goes to work everyday and struggles to pay the bills and recieves no goverment assistance and fights the ever continueing cost of living increases in food, fuel, and goods. It's easy to tell someone they have had enough to eat when your belly is full Obama. It's easy to tell someone that sacrifices will have to be made and it's going to be tough when your taking vacations and holding lavish parties on the tax payers dime. I had a growing 1 person business until the democrats took control in 2006. Now through goverment regulation, the lack of the democrats to acknowledge there were problems, and hasty self serving decisions made (Mr Cuomo in particular) my business and many others in the same profession is in the toilet (and no I am not a lender or mortgage broker or real estate sales agent). The consumer has seen an increase of 2.8 billion dollars last year for our services which was made by stealing from us and increasing fees to the consumer. Of course, the democrats got their slice of the pie increased so everything must be good for the country, right?

September 14 2010 at 9:28 AM Report abuse +40 rate up rate down Reply

Obama's stance on the War on Poverty is consistent with his position on the War in Iraq: he has declared victory and withdrawn from the battlefield, regardless of the consequences. Poverty rates and homelessness on his watch are back to what they were before Lyndon Johnson declared "war on poverty" in the sixties.

September 14 2010 at 9:11 AM Report abuse +42 rate up rate down Reply

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