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POLITICS: PennAve

President Obama strains to straddle fundraising, foreign policy

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Russia,Campaign Finance,PennAve,Susan Crabtree,Foreign Policy,Los Angeles,Ukraine,DNC

While fundraising in Beverly Hills, President Obama Wednesday night complained about “phony scandals” back in Washington at a glitzy dinner at the home of the producer of TV drama “Scandal.”

“And no offense, Scandal is a great show,” Obama said to laughter. “But it’s not something that we necessarily want to be living out day in, day out.”

“What we see on the nightly news or on cable news is just this constant clamor of hot air,” he said.

The president's usual jovial fundraising banter seemed particularly jarring on a night when most news cable shows were filled with Images of a stream of caskets and hearses in the Netherlands, as the Dutch people held a solemn day of mourning and remembrance for victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 downed last week by a suspected surface-to-air missile over war-torn eastern Ukraine.

Obama didn’t mention the shoot-down of the jetliner in Ukraine in his remarks Wednesday night, although just before making the “phony scandal” comment he added a graph acknowledging that “some people are concerned about the turmoil taking place around the world” before quickly pivoting back to dismissing domestic partisan disputes.

“But the conflict that probably makes people most discouraged is the conflict they see in Washington, where members of Congress can't see to do anything, where all we hear about is gridlock, and all we hear about is posturing, and all we hear about are phony scandals,” he said.

Earlier in his remarks, he lavished praise on his “girl” singer-songer writer Janelle Monae, who attended the dinner, saying she has been to the White House “like 15 times.”

“There’s going to be an official Janelle Monae room in the White House – we love her,” he said, adding that he has to say nice things about her because “she may be the only person in possession of a video in which I try to keep up with her and Usher on the dance floor.”

“Now, this is top secret. She has promised this will never be released but she can blackmail me at anytime,” he remarked.

The two traded some jokey repartee, before Obama said he did not pull a James Brown and drop into the splits “but I did bust a move – that I did do.”

His aides have repeatedly said the five fundraising events in three days this week along the West Coast would not distract Obama from his commander-in-chief duties even though they were taking place amid fallout over the jetliner crash, the ground war in Gaza and bombings by ISIS in Iraq. But Obama still seemed to have a tough time straddling the two roles and deciding whether talking about the turmoil in the world was appropriate or not while rubbing shoulders with deep-pocketed Democratic donors.

During his first fundraiser Tuesday night in Seattle, the president spent considerable time on foreign policy in his remarks, acknowledging that the American people are feeling anxious in part because of “some big challenges overseas.”

Obama told the crowd he’s “very proud” about his role in ending one war and ending another he "inherited" by the end of the year.

He then listed the myriad problems that have erupted around the world during his time in the Oval Office, conceding that “part of people’s concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order …”

“But whether people see what's happening in Ukraine, and Russia's aggression towards its neighbors in the manner in which it's financing and arming separatists; to what's happened in Syria -- the devastation that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has wrought on his own people; to the failure in Iraq for Sunni and Shia and Kurd to compromise -- although we're trying to see if we can put together a government that actually can function; to ongoing terrorist threats; to what's happening in Israel and Gaza ...,” he said.

By the next day at a luncheon benefitting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Obama had jettisoned any mention of the international affairs and global unrest in his remarks.

Instead, he stuck to standard fundraising fare, thanking Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and one of her top lieutenants, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., for their work in Congress and going on the attack against Republicans.

The reason politics doesn’t work right now in Washington, he said, “is because we have one party that has no agenda other than making government not work; whose primary function, primary purpose right now, if you distill their ideology, comes down to saying no to any efforts to help ordinary families get ahead.”

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