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President Obama: Open Mouth, Remove Snowshoe

There's something a bit embarrassing about how we're falling over each other to react to President Obama's comments that Washington is full of weather wimps. It's like we're a high school girl giddy to have been noticed by the captain of the football team. Yes, he said we were a weird loser with funny glasses and an overbite, but he noticed us!

He's wrong, of course, hugely, glaringly, painfully wrong.

Have you seen the clip? Obama goes out of his way to announce: "My children's school was canceled today. Because of what? Some ice? . . . We're going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town."

"Flinty Chicago toughness." It sounds like something an advertising copywriter came up with, like "chewy caramel goodness."

But Mr. President, there's a reason Washington isn't like Chicago: It isn't Chicago. This week's storm was our first appreciable snowfall in a year. How are we supposed to learn the hallowed winter ways of the Second City when we don't have the practice? When, as we're constantly reminded, Washington is "full of people from somewhere else?"

Now, I'm all for learning new skills, even arcane ones, but are you prepared to spend some of that $819 billion in bailout money on constructing a huge winter-skills driving center somewhere in the Washington area? Installing snow-making machines, building a humongous skid pad? (Hey, you could put it in the FedEx Field parking lot! They never need it after December.) While you're at it, howzabout you get us all certified in driving on volcanic ash, too? I hear they can do that no problem in Hawaii, excuse me, Hawai'i.

Not being able to handle ice and snow--fishtailing on highways, rioting for toilet paper, shutting down schools--is an integral part of Washington's charming folkways, the way rampant corruption is part of Chicago's. We snarl at tourists who block the Metro escalators, we happily get gouged by sports team owners, we elect drug addicts, we make desultory attempts every few years to fix our public schools and we freak out when it snows. That's just what we do. And now you want us to start doing something different?

Well good luck with that. I suppose you could announce a massive, Manhattan Project-style program. You say you admire John F. Kennedy. Why not echo the famous speech JFK gave announcing America's plans for a moon landing? You could say something like, "We choose to instill flinty Chicago toughness in the good people of Washington not because it is easy, but because it is hard."

But really, Mr. President, I think you should just concentrate on other, more important things. You say you want to change the culture of Washington. Well this is one bit of our culture that doesn't need changing.

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Not!
Here's why I won't be sad if the U.S. Postal Service stops Saturday delivery: No one has ever received a desirable piece of mail on a Saturday.

Every Saturday I hear the metallic ching of my mailbox door being opened. Every Saturday I rush to see what the mailman has brought me. Every Saturday I find a big postcard from a real estate agent telling me what my neighbors' houses sold for, discount coupons for carpet-cleaning and off-brand pizza delivery, an "important" letter from someone offering to refinance my house, a brochure for a retirement home and a half-dozen catalogues for ugly women's clothing (is the clothing ugly or is it clothing for women who are ugly? a bit of both, actually).

No, I will not miss Saturday delivery.

Clean Your %$&^@ing Car Off
My Lovely Wife phones from I-95 to say she is dodging huge sheets of ice in her Mini. If you're taking to the highways today, please remove any ice and snow that is encrusted on your vehicle. Once your car is warmed up and reaches highway speed that ice becomes a dangerous projectile. Come on, show some flinty Chicago toughness!

By John Kelly  |  January 29, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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Chicago is FLAT
Ice skating rinks are FLAT
Washington is on the Fall line. It's not flat except in the reclaimed swamp areas around the White House. All the Midwestern flatlanders who drop by here know nothing about ice and hills.
It's also not a question of practice its a question of cost. It makes no sense for Washington to maintain the snow removal capacity of a snow belt city for its annual snowstorm

Posted by: Vince5 | January 29, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Obama is right on. Not only do we painfully overreact to winter weather but rain too. I witness people leaving work early for all kinds of weather. Even fear of potentially "bad" weather sends people home. Granted I'm biased b/c I grew up in Chicago but I have lived in Florida for 4 years and in DC for 8 years now and I always laugh at people's overreaction in this city.

Posted by: mhseminole | January 29, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

It's true. People who live and work in the Greater Washington DC area are weather wimps.

But, when it comes to our kids' safety, I would always choose a school closing.

No matter how hard the local DOTs try to handle the kind of winter storms we get here, they just don't have the kind of or array of equipment that a city like Chicago does.

Chill out, Mr President, and enjoy your kids' snow day.

Posted by: bmschumacher | January 29, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Gee - take a class in learning to understand humor or something. Anyone who listened to that and thought he was being serious needs to get a grip.
I am a die-hard Republican and opposed to almost everything Obama stands for but even I can appreciate a joke now and again.

Posted by: Lilathe | January 29, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Maybe he could enlighten us with some flinty Chicago corruption. If he doesn't like the fact that the PRIVATE school that his kids attends, he should home school them. I guess he's preturbed that the public schools were closed and he didn't have the opportunity to shoot hoops on the basketball courts.

Posted by: justhere | January 29, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Kelly:

Get a life! You whine about everybody falling over the President's words and you go ahead and devote God knoes how much time, ink and paper to garbage. obviously you have no idea what levity is and you think everyon has to walk around as tight a--ed as you do. Like I said, get a life, stop killing innocent trees for nothing!

Posted by: omoekun2000 | January 29, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

This is not Chicago, or Buffalo, or Pittsburgh. During every major precipitation that we get in the winter have you stopped to notice that the temperature is + or - one to two degrees from freezing? If Senator Obama had been "present" more in DC he would have known this. I think it was an orchestrated tactic to make him appear to the rest of the country as a Washington outsider.

Posted by: waRshingtonian | January 29, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I see the Post qualified the delayed openings today - "because of freeze-over from the night".

Do they think Obama reads the paper? Maybe a Secrect Service guy will fill him in?

Posted by: RedBird27 | January 29, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Well said El Presidente, no further comments. Right on, spot on, from an area native.

Posted by: nyomohunu | January 29, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

What, slow news day? It was a joke, Mr. Kelly! It seems you may be the giddy high school girl with weird glasses and an overbite. A little levity in times like this is welcome. He spent a minute of a press conference making people chuckle. You wasted your column criticizing his attempt at humor. I wasted my time reading it.

Posted by: John61254 | January 29, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

This is a stupid article. There is too much going on for this artcile to even be considered. What a waste.

Posted by: jmk261 | January 29, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I readily agree that it is not practical for DC to spend the money necessary to compare with a city like Chicago when it comes to city ops during winter weather events. However, generally speaking the president is right! Having said that though, I have to add that shutting the city down at the first sign of a flake or glaze is necessary to protect the people from themselves. I don't want to be on the road with most folks when it snows and never when it ices up. People won't even use common sense and slow down or turn on their lights. And if you do slow down in front of someone who doesn't agree that it is necessary, human nature takes over resulting in anything from high-beams, horns, or even road rage. Yeah, we're weather wimps, but that is what is best for the people of this city.

Posted by: wadenx | January 29, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Some of you are reacting as if Washington were a Sunbelt city hit by a once-a-decade snowstorm. No, it's a winter city in North--that's how the majority of the nation sees it, and that's what it is. Keep your schools open when it snows. The teachers need to work, the kids need to learn, and the working parents don't need to get hit with a childcare problem on days when their employers expect them to be on the job.

Posted by: DualAg | January 29, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I sure hope that this isn't the shape of things to come with our new president. I just heard the clip and it really is "much ado about nothing." The whole thing sounded like an oppinion made by someone who has lived in a city that has drastically worse winters than we do. Of course he'd think we can't cut it! Let's talk to him in August though when that 100% humidity kicks in for a week at a time. This aint Hawaii heat we're talking about.

Posted by: wadenx | January 29, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Obama is micromanaging as the President, and displaying that he has never been a city manager, a mayor, or a Governor.
Actuarial science is a basic concept in College classes,odd he fails to consider that angle.
Anyone paying for an insurance policy has a grasp of liability, even if they have never been to college.

A "little ice" froze a Veteran to death in his home because he couldn't afford to pay his bill, but kids....we got STD prevention money. BEEEEEG money for prevention.

If Obama had some foresight, he could have put his girls in public schools. Public schools were open in DC. Only the snob shops were afraid of lawsuit if a kid splayed flat out in front of the school.

The tough DC public schools were of no interest to the elitist.

Reality is no mail delivery, and FEMA barely able to respond to downed power lines that will freeze people until February.
Obama's reality is a booze fest over Pork.

Obama can't find the doors, and tries to walk through windows so hung over from all the booze over the last two weeks.

Posted by: dottydo | January 29, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

OMG get a grip, dude. It was a joke, for heavens sake. (Mind you, it was true, but that's beside the point.) A throw away line and typical for the Washington media, it gets played way out of all proportion. The Washington media needs a serious humor transplant and learn to take themselves a little less seriously. (And while I'm waiting for that to happen, I'll also wait for world peace. I wonder which will come first?)

Posted by: wtregan | January 29, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it's time that Washingtonians learn that weather humor is just that -- weather humor. Chicagoans get teased all winter about snow and ice and subzero from our friends in Arizona, Florida, California. We also get a lot of "I am so freakin' glad I moved away from that winter mess."

We know not to take it personally.

Does anyone really think that Obama was trying to micromanage schools or seriously comment on snow and ice removal in D.C.? I realize that the past 8 years were worse than humorless, but really, get over it.

Go outside and make a snowball.

Posted by: wingedlizard | January 29, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Too bad you're on salary because this article isn't worth anything.

Posted by: ajmoonjelly | January 29, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

You are overly defensive. why? he was relating his youngest daughter's comments and his own reaction. nice to have both. my kids would have jumped for joy. his daughter had her own reaction. she's allowed. it's a free country.

Posted by: vlbauc | January 29, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

It has nothing to do with anything other than the fact Washington DC was built near and in a marsh with the river in front and hills surrounding it!(military protection) Hence the unpredictable weather. It could have been a 2" of ice and all would say it should have been known!

Posted by: ohwell | January 29, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I'll do Pres. Obama one better: the DC/Baltimore metro area, the school corporations, and the author of this article are all weather wimps. C'mon people, really. The first significant snowfall in two years? IT WAS TWO INCHES FOR GOD'S SAKE - even a Mini Cooper or Yaris can straddle that, friends. WIMPS, all of you!

Posted by: neo-american | January 29, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

John your snow comments on Obama were a little too 'Washington' snarky. Funny is good. Your editor did not help you!

Posted by: gamma64 | January 29, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Obama had to walk 25 miles to school and 25 miles home, uphill both ways, in knee deep snow, on his knees, in Indonesia.
He was glad to do it, and felt lucky because the snow was worse in Kenya.

Washington DC whimpy people, ahould just eat their poopy peanut butter and shut up, (since there is no money or time to fund and Staff the FDA. We are spending it to abort babies in someplace...I don't know where).

OOOOOps FEMA can't respond to ice and down powerlines in States ordered by Obama.
That was in the repeal of Bushes final funding actions, that Obama killed with his broadstoke pen showing us just who won.

Obama didn't notice what he cut with his hangover and all. He is busy ordering DC around, and planning a new round of 8 balls to celebrate his power and presence.
Buck up folks and have another drink. It is the flinty thing to do.

Posted by: dottydo | January 29, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

This article was so much fun! I love good writing. However, in defense of our dear President Obama, when I moved, I was amazed at how wimpy Philadelphians were at the 1st sight of snowflakes. I am from the mountains of Western PA. In Connellsville, school bus drivers (lots of females) bring those big, bad, yellow monstrostities over snow and ice covered mountains while Philadelphians close their schools when an inch of snow accumulates. When you come from areas like Chicago, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, you just don't get the hype or the school closings.

Posted by: GretaStewart | January 29, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse


All of the Midwest is not flat. Try driving in Duluth Minnesota sometime. They have really big hills and plenty of snow and ice.

Sometimes the only way to get from the top of the hill to the bottom is to turn your front wheels so they rub along the curb as you slide down the hill (in your car) hoping and praying.

They usually only close schools if the wind chills go below -50 below. Now there's some flinty toughness that even Chicago would find challenging.


Posted by: gesmith | January 29, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Don't you think that Washington's preferred method of keeping their hands warm by shoving them down the front of their pants is a bit too smarmy for the rest of the country. And I doubt the Prez will be eating his words according to your title. Buy a pair of gloves and keep it in the bedroom. Please.

Posted by: venice1 | January 29, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

It is unfortunate that someone with so little life experience is thrust into such a role. I have lived in the DC area; I guess Pres. Obama spent less time there as a senator than the press lead us to believe, and have suffered through the ice storms. I can tell you as someone who was born and raised in upstate NY and the Midwest, you have never seen these conditions. I had a neighbor pull his car out of the garage and watch as his car slid down his driveway, across the street and up to his neighbor's porch, with the engine off and brakes set.
I put the commentators and Obama in the same category as people in NYC who opine on how Alaskans should live and work in their state.

Posted by: Ethicist | January 29, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

See, it's boneheaded pointless columns like this that bring out the nutcases like dottydo to spew thier incoherent bile.

Everybody loves a snow day where I come from, glad I don't live somewhere flinty, but Obama was making light banter! Honestly, get a grip!

Posted by: MichieMich | January 29, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I understand that the DC public schools did not close! Friends Sidwell is a private school. I'm sure it's expensive and did not offer a refund for the missed day. I don't blame a parent for not being happy that they closed!!!

Posted by: HLMORIN | January 29, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Good grief!!!

Posted by: bzbzbtzy | January 29, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Kelly,
Wouldn't it be better to shut up completely on slow news day than to utter inane, useless comments about nothing?

Doesn't your editor understand that?

Or, like the old planned economy of the USSR, Washington Post operates on the "measurable outcomes" basis, e.g. "this year I've produced 25% more written words than last year"

Or maybe I'm too cynical...

Posted by: VMR1 | January 29, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

It's been a day already--GET OVER IT!!!

Heard the comment yesterday morning and thought it was funny.
Checking the news last night and found that it was still being discussed and hashed at and AGAIN this morning the press is still harping about it.
Wow--you people need to relax.
If something as minor as the President commenting on the weather sets off you sensitive Washington residents it's going to be a long 4 years.
Maybe you all need to pull the snowshoes out of your uptight @sses and worry about the sad state of our beloved country.

Posted by: srloring | January 29, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

From the LA Times:

A spokeswoman for the Chicago Public Schools said snow, ice or cold has not shut down the system since Jan. 4-5, 1999, when a storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on the city. The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, which the Obama girls attended, has closed only once in the last 30 years because of winter weather, said David Derbes, a longtime faculty member.

Posted by: jpaultel | January 29, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Go to any suburban mall and you still see thousands of 4x4 SUVs; what in the name of Everitt Dirksen are they there for if not to brave an inch-and-a-half of fresh snow.

Obie's right; DCers are wimps and should be ashamed.

Posted by: charlesjacksonnyc | January 29, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

It's good to see that most of the coverage of this little off-hand joke has been at about the same level of playfulness.

Having lived in Richmond, VA for 22 years and now Chicago for 1 1/2, I gotta say that people freak the heck out waaay too much over snow in the Mid-Atlantic. I got a real kick out of Obama's comment.

Posted by: JChase59 | January 29, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

John Kelly's analysis are just as impressive and penetrating as his reader's, Dottydo.

Posted by: jpaultel | January 29, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Seriously . . .

The man made an innocent, teasing joke! Let's take it down a notch. Try meaningful, issue-oriented INVESTIGATIVE journalism not this "journalish"!

Posted by: gtdhsrgs | January 29, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

This entire article sounds like it was written by a DC wimp.

Obama was right about Washingtonians and the weather. I also grew up in Chicago and I can safely say this city is simply ridiculous when things freeze here. Schools are STILL closed today. It's above freezing! Why? The drivers here act like it's the first time they've seen snow every year even though it comes EVERY YEAR. Maybe just for a day or a week, but it's here.

But more importantly anyone who's making a big deal out of this is either a drama queen or doesn't keep current on world events. Otherwise the discussion would be about a world economy in freefall, a black hole-forming machine about to be turned on, the thousands upon thousands of people who get killed regularly from war, famine, preventable disease and street violence, an energy problem which has come to a head after warnings after warnings over the past 5 decades, or any of the other hundreds of really important topics of the day.

Please John, do your job and write about something of substance. You're wasting your gift on garbage.

Posted by: bmarcus220 | January 29, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

wow... WHO CARES. We are hemorrhaging jobs and money and have lost thousands of troops in two quagmire wars! But no, let's get upset about what Obama said ABOUT THE WEATHER

Posted by: spongekill | January 29, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Did you intentionally miss the president's point or what?

When Obama said "can we get away from talking about the economy for just a minute?" I think that is exactly what he meant to talk about! This was a message to a Congress, still frozen in partisan politics, to buck up and get on with the business of fixing what has been so very wrong with this country for the past eight years.

Posted by: limericksavant | January 29, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Nice Bay City Rollers reference, John.

I've actually received good mail on Saturdays - official word that I has passed the Maryland Bar, and I used to get my Federal tax refunds on Saturdays as well.

Posted by: staxowax | January 29, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Wow what a whiney article... ooo Obama said we were pansies for complaining about a little snow... you know what? he's right, that does make you look like sissies. and you are sissies, you're going to have to get used to much worse weather because climate change is not fake. You don't like this little bit of snow? too bad it's gonna get much worse and you little ninnies will have to deal with it.

Posted by: formlessness | January 29, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Who will miss Saturday mail? Netflix, and their customers!

Posted by: bowmanrand1 | January 29, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Okay, seriously?...alright let me break it down for you people. It is extremely hard for me to express in words just how much I didn't want President Obama to win the election, and here I am defending the man again. First time on this site, but again none the less. Now I know that it's hard for me to keep up on some of the breaking news issues while in Iraq but I figured I would have notice the new law regaurding making it illegal to make off handed jokes. Oh no, the President made a joke, LET'S IMPEACH NOW!!! I'm not going to insult you people, you are doing that well enough on your own. But here's how a lot of us deployed Soldiers are looking at it. You people are insulting us. If this is all you have to talk about then is an insult to us. Those of us that run combat missions everyday have very little free time on our hands and we have to choose what we do with that time wisely. Do I call home to my wife and kids, do I relax with a movie, or do I read the news. Well I and some of my Battle Buddies feel that we have been robbed by you people because you couldn't think of anything else freak out about. You decided that it more important to attack the man based on some silly little comment that he made instead of more pressing issues like our economy, or the fact that our service members are still being killed. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. The Man is trying to help this country in everyway that he can...and THIS is the talk of the nation? Congradulations on picking up on the important things in life.

Posted by: ESSAYONS | January 29, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

sittin here in orchard park ny, looking out the window. my view is of a beautiful snowy morning. the roads are just tracks where cars have gone by. big fat fluffy flakes and expected to go all day. sure traffic will slow, but put on a good radio station or book on tape, take your time and your good to go. i had this mentality when driving with the inexperienced dc driver and it kept me sane down there!

Posted by: nall92 | January 30, 2009 8:00 AM | Report abuse

It was a joke. It is a common joke that happens every winter, just as reliably as "It's not the heat, it's the humidity" happens every summer. And it is funny because it is true. I'm one of the rare natives to this area, and even I joke about it (Oops, there's a snowflake. Montgomery County Schools just closed.)

I also spent Thursday morning at home waiting for the ice to loosen up. I'm proud to say that I'm a wimp too.

Posted by: magicdomino | January 30, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

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