President Obama says he’d like to socialize with Republicans, but they aren’t responding to his overtures. So which is it, a remote president or an opposition party that refuses to hang out with him?
The White House screening of Lincoln on Nov. 15 offers a bit of a counterpoint to GOP and press complaints about Obama’s aloofness. Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner were there, along with cast members Daniel Day-Lewis, James Spader, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones.
Sounds like an irresistible invitation, right? Wrong.
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The only lawmakers at the screening were Democrats – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and Reps. James Clyburn and John Lewis. No Republicans attended, though several were invited, according to a Democrat familiar with the guest list. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell turned down the invitation, as did Sens. Lamar Alexander, Tom Coburn and Olympia Snowe.
Boehner may be setting something of a record for sending regrets to the White House. Though he attended at least one state dinner during the George W. Bush administration, he has turned down invitations to six hosted by Obama (Britain, South Korea, Germany, China, Mexico and India). McConnell declined to attend the dinners for India and China, as well as a White House event celebrating his home-state University of Kentucky’s NCAA basketball championship.
When the Obamas held a reception for new members of Congress in January 2011, after the “shellacking” Democrats took in the 2010 election, 37 Republicans showed up. More than two-thirds of the freshman senators and House members swept in with the GOP tide stayed away.