President Barack Obama on Monday dismissed the perception that he is aloof and disdains the backslapping bonhomie a US leader sometimes requires to drive his priorities through Congress.
Obama put his often polarizing differences with Republicans down to politics rather than personal antipathy, arguing that though he had enjoyed a round of golf with House Speaker John Boehner, it had not helped get things done.
“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,” Obama said.
The president said that when he has members of Congress to the White House for an annual picnic: “Michelle and I are very nice to them and we have a wonderful time.”
“But it doesn’t prevent them from going onto the floor of the House and blasting me for being a big-spending socialist,” the president quipped.
“I think that really what’s gone on in terms of some of the paralysis here in Washington or difficulties in negotiations just have to do with some very stark differences in terms of policy.”
Some commentators have unfavorably compared Obama to past presidents like Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, who were known for schmoozing opponents and slick interpersonal political skills.
Obama, who will be sworn in to begin his second term on Sunday, said that ultimately, it was up for public opinion to convince warring political factions in Washington to compromise.
“That will be true whether I’m the life of the party or a stick in the mud,” he said, though he joked that, with his daughters growing up, he could soon start scouring Capitol Hill for people to play cards with.