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Obama or an Obama-Impersonator? Ros-Lehtinen Flubs the Call

By Anne E. Kornblut
Twice on Wednesday, President-elect Barack Obama tried to reach across the partisan divide with a phone call to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida.

And twice, according to her office, she hung up on him.

She "thought it was a hoax," an aide to the congresswoman said.

In a series of hang-up and follow-up calls that appears to have taken up much of the afternoon, Ros-Lehtinen first received a call on her cell phone, from a Chicago phone number, and was informed by the caller that Obama wished to speak with her. When a man sounding like Obama got on the line, Ros-Lehtinen cut him off, saying, "I'm sorry, but I think this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks." She then hung up, according to a statement issued by her office.

A little while later, Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel called the congresswoman back.

"Ileana, I cannot believe that you hung up on the president-elect," Emanuel said, according to the congresswoman's office.

Her response?

"Ros-Lehtinen told Rahm that she didn't believe the call was legitimate and hung up on Emanuel," her statement said.

A third party then sought to intervene. Rep. Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and someone Ros-Lehtinen knows well, called and told her he "needed to speak with her urgently." She got on the line -- but demanded that Berman recount a story "only both of them would know," which the congressman did.

He then told her what had just happened -- "that she had, indeed, hung up on the president-elect," according to her office statement.

Finally, when Obama called a third time, she took the call.

"He told her 'It is very funny that you have twice hung up on me,' to which she responded that South Florida radio stations are notorious for these jokes," her statement said. "Obama told her that in Chicago they also have prank calls. Ileana told Obama that 'you are either very gracious to reach out in such a bipartisan manner or had run out of folks to call if you are truly calling me and Saturday Night Live could use a good Obama impersonator like you.'"

She went on to congratulate him for his victory, and urged him to work with allies on Cuba and Israel, two of her top issues.

If only Sarah Palin had been so careful.

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 3, 2008; 6:53 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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Why was he wasting time trying to talk to that "whack job"?

Posted by: NotBubba | December 5, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

What kind of name is "Ros-Lehtinen"? Sounds like something on a smorgasbord.

Posted by: AsperGirl | December 4, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse

The woman spends all day avoiding phone calls, for fear of those notorious South Florida radio stations. They are the terrorists of the airways, those dirty lowdown S. FL shock jocks.

Posted by: AsperGirl | December 4, 2008 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Ohreallynow? Whether these people are idiots or not, Obama has spent nearly $1M fighting the request to turn over his birth certificate (fact). If he's a US Citizen as he claims, then why is he wasting his (or more likely his donors') money. There's an easy solution, produce the birth certificate but he won't. I'm not saying he's not a citizen, personally I don't care, but this is a Constitutional issue. And in the US the Constitution still means something.

Posted by: madmax8600 | December 4, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

anyone who's seen this woman on Maher's show knows she's not an idiot, and doesn't appear to be a rigid idealogue like so many in her party. She pretty much tacitly acknowledged on her appearance this past season that Palin was an idiot and that the GOP was going to get drummed in November.

Posted by: pcpatterson | December 4, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

I think everyone should stop judging Mr. Obama, he is not Pres yet and really has done nothing good or bad to judge. So far, he seems quite decent. My opinion, in a matter of time, he will critically damage not only America, but the entire western world, but that is just an my opinion for the future. But as of now, looking like I could be very wrong. I will wait until he has to make a decision that reveals who he is, before I cast a judgement.

Posted by: fly66 | December 4, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

It still amazes me that some idiots still think that Barack Obama is not a US citizen by birth. Please give our government some credit! Don't you think the FBI, CIA, and all other agencies have checked into this? Don't you think that John McCain checked into this?


Posted by: OHREALLYNOW | December 4, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

She would appear to be a perfect fit for his cabinet. LOL This lady is an idiot. At least we only have to deal with her for 4 years.

Posted by: askgees | December 4, 2008 1:46 PM | Report abuse

It reminds me of that movie where Michael Douglas is the President trying to order flowers himself and they won't believe him. Comedy Gold!

Posted by: JakeD | December 4, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

We've just come out of eight years of mean and vindictive politics. Why would anyone who vigorously campaigned against Obama expect a congratulatory phone call from him? It would have never happened in the previous administration.

We also have a culture where it is acceptable for radio personalities to make headlines, and further their own careers by making public figures look like fools.

It is pleasant to see that Mr. Obama is gentlemanly enough to place such congratulatory phone calls, as well as, persistent enough not to be stymied in completing those calls.

Posted by: larry20 | December 4, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Wow, no attempt to verify? What if it had been about something important? Simply stop with "I don't believe you?"

I think I would have shown a little more "intellectual curiosity;" but that seems to be in short-supply among certain demographic groups- you betcha.

Posted by: interactidiomas | December 4, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Check out this link:

Whether its true or not, how come it is not getting more press w/ the WP. It hasn't been proven a hoax and other reputable media outlets are talking about it.

Posted by: 1995gt | December 4, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Ahaha! She probably didn't want to talk to him at all! lol...then she talks about what she wants HIM to do! the nerve of her. If I was Obama the conversation would have gone like this:"I sure will take those things into consideration. Oh, by the way, you heard your first to get the pink slip in your district right?" *Ros-Lehtinen sits up in her leather chair staring at the receiver of her phone* "Are you serious Mr. President? I'm going to get fired?" *Obama looks at the receiver on his phone and starts to smirk* "Oh, I'm sorry...we have a bad connection and I uh, I can't hear you. I'll have to call you back after inauguration..." *click*

Posted by: cbmuzik | December 4, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

President Obama is a far better man than me-
I'd rather see Ros-Lehtinen dangling from a poplar tree!

Posted by: kase | December 4, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

It points out how awful politics has been that a phone call from the president-elect is more likely viewed as a hoax than a genuine call. It will take a lot of effort by Mr Obama and his team to fix the catastrophic damage done by Mr Bush and Mr Cheney in this regard. I wish them the best of luck, as our future depends on the ability of government to suddenly work efficiently and with shared purpose.

Posted by: jrm1 | December 4, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

See? Paranoiac people just think in hurting, maiming and obliterating other peoples. One of the first checks politicians should go through is psychiatric evaluation, with strict thresholds of sanity to achieve.

Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): "...urged him to work with allies on Cuba and Israel, two of her top issues"
Isn't dandy? This huge human being that is Obama, reaches across party lines and PERSONALLY talks to the Re-puke-lick-cons, and what he receives in return?
Urges to keep assassinating religious communities and keep destroying DEMOCRATIC countries... from fanatical non American-patriots.

Oh boy! What a nerve, such an arrogance of this Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), my gosh!
Her President-elect urges her to be INCLUSIVE and she slaps him back with EXCLUSIVENESS: exclude Cuba… exclude Iran… exclusive rights only to me… shutting out all others from share than me, me, meeeee!

This Representant of the USA, just thinks of Cuba and Israel... obsessively. And detrimentally to the American being. With American taxpayers’ money!
Put these personages to pasture! We'd save money and we'd be free to better deals.

Posted by: SouthStar | December 4, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

What a wonderful story: imagine the President-elect making his own phone calls. I call that truly Presidential. You picked a right good one this time America! Yours truly, Daryl Atamanyk

Posted by: DarylAtamanyk | December 4, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I think what the president-elect has been doing recently is really amazing and encouraging. Keep up the good work Mr. Obama. America really needs that.

Posted by: ExpressReader | December 4, 2008 7:24 AM | Report abuse

There are 435 Representatives in the House; I think her healthy skepticism serves her well. The idea that the President-Elect would be reaching across the aisle to her on some random Wednesday before he's taken office is far-fetched. On that basis, I think "flubs" is a bit negative of a characterization.

All that being said, I'm encouraged by both his centrist appointments and stories such as this.

Posted by: cuadro | December 4, 2008 5:28 AM | Report abuse

If only, then the WaPo wouldn't have ravaged her on everything else?

Posted by: JakeD | December 3, 2008 11:49 PM | Report abuse

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