LOS ANGELES — Fact met fiction Wednesday in one of those Hollywood ways: The real-life president of the United States complains about “phony scandals” in the presence of the producer and the star of a hit TV drama about indignity and dishonor among Washington’s political elite.
Fundraising in Beverly Hills, President Barack Obama told about 450 Democratic Party contributors at the home of “Scandal” producer Shonda Rhimes that such controversies distract from the business of governing. Among those listening was series star Kerry Washington.
“All we hear about is phony scandals,” Obama said, pausing ever so briefly to acknowledge his hosts. “No offense — ‘Scandal’ is a great show.”
Obama was aiming his irritation at Republicans who he said “don’t have any interest in making things work.
“So they obstruct, and they obfuscate and they bamboozle, and they sometimes don’t tell exactly what’s truth — that was a euphemism,” he said.
“Most folks don’t have the time to sort out all the intricacies of Obamacare or Benghazi or this or that,” the president said, naming two issues that Republicans have seized on to question his administration. “They don’t have time for that. All they know is it’s not working for them.”
Obama’s remarks stuck to a theme he has been relying on during a three-day West Coast fundraising spree — that Republicans are fostering a cynicism in the country that helps the GOP by dissuading the public to voe.
Earlier Wednesday Obama portrayed Republicans as members of a party that “has no agenda other than making government not work.”
Obama has combined his irritation at Republicans with calls on GOP leaders to cooperate with him, a call challenged by Republican leaders who say Obama is not sufficiently engaged in legislation and is not pursuing bipartisan solutions.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, noted this week that the Republican-controlled House has passed numerous pieces of legislation that he says would boost the economy but have stalled in the Democratic-led Senate.
“If he’s serious, he’ll help us break the logjam in his party’s Senate and make more progress for Americans still asking, ‘Where are the jobs?'” Boehner said.
Obama’s fundraising — at least six events over three days in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles — came during a week that represented the two extremes of his approach to Congress. On Tuesday he signed a rare piece of bipartisan job-training legislation and hailed it as a symbol of cooperation. On Monday he signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the base of sexual orientation, the kind of go-it-alone strategy he has made a keystone of his second term.
Still, the lack of compromise has not only halted progress on a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system but also raised doubts about legislation to help address an influx of young migrants at the southern border and to fix the nation’s veterans’ health programs.
Congress has until the end of next week to move on various fronts before it begins a month-long recess. By the time lawmakers return in September, the midterm election’s fall campaign will be dominant.
In Washington, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell faulted Obama for not being in town while Congress debates vital legislation.
“I’m not going to give him advice about how to allocate his time, but he’s certainly not spending the kind of time with the people he needs to pass legislation and convince people who have a vote, who were sent here to legislate, of the virtues of whatever position he has,” McConnell said.