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The Symbolism of Obama's Limo

By Jo-Ann Armao

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says that the president is more interested in actually doing something about the second-class status of D.C. residents than in empty symbols like, say, putting D.C.’s “Taxation Without Representation” plates on the presidential limo. Good to know. But here’s a question: when is the president going to get serious?

Despite his past support for a measure that would give the District a voting member in the House of Representatives, Obama hasn’t done a thing since being sworn in to help voting-rights advocates. He sat back in February as the Senate, with more than 20 Democrats signing on, attached a toxic gun amendment to the bill that would give the District a voting representative in the House. His administration has pointedly refused to comment about the implications of lax gun laws in the nation’s capital on homeland security. And he hasn’t lifted a finger to help people like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) convince Democratic members to vote on voting rights without the gun amendment.

So, the bill sits as D.C. residents are denied a voice in their government. And the president tools around town, the one he purports to a citizen of, in a limousine that, by virtue of what it doesn’t say, is fast becoming a symbol -- of presidential apathy.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | July 1, 2009; 2:05 PM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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Lax gun laws in the capital? What lax gun laws?

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | July 1, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Armao,

You are assuming that the president has unlimited politcal capital. The reality is that the president constantly needs to prioritize his goals and spend his political capital accordingly.

One example: What is most important at this moment: reformiong health care or DC representation? In fact he is pushing toward more goals simultaneously than any president in recent history.

But here you are complaining because he is only focused on 25 agendas at once instead of 50.

Posted by: daler1 | July 1, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Jo-Ann Armao. You summed it up perfectly. Neither Obama nor his staff have given any priority to DC voting rights. You did not mention that Obama has said that the DC voting rights bill in Congress is "a partisan issue." I guess that's why he is silent.

You can rest assured that as I get e-mails from the Obama team asking for continued donations and support for their pet causes, I quickly delete them. After all their causes are partisan issues.

I suspect my check book will also balk at contributing to his re-election bid in 2012. After all, Obama is a partisan issue.

Posted by: NewEra | July 1, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

And what are the rest of our elected officials on Capital Hill doing as they tool around that same city? Aren't most of them at least part time citizens. Talk about apathy, it's been going on for 100's of years!

Posted by: AverageJane | July 1, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"implications to Homeland Security"? Really? You are joking, right? Like the law banning guns did anything. Why not go join Froomy and go away!

Posted by: trjn30 | July 1, 2009 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Would DC voting rights be nice? Sure. Is it more important than health care, the environment, the economy, two wars (to name a few -- I could go on)?

As far as the voting/gun combo, I agree this was ridiculous, but I would blame Eleanor Holmes Norton, not Obama. She fought this, rather effectively, from going through. A wiser political decision would have been to push the bill through, then amend the gun part later. DC could have contributed with its newly acquired vote to implement more reasonable gun control measures (and perhaps not just in DC, either).

Posted by: tomguy1 | July 1, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Since when is this primarily a White House problem? We have three branches of government. The Congress needs to get a move on. I guarantee the president won't veto it if they come up with a solution.

Beyond that I would much rather have him spend his time thinking about, oh, Iran and its nuclear program, Iraq and the pullout, an Afghan recovery, relations with China, Russia, South Korea, the Arab world, Europe... and then also climate change, healthcare reform, financial regulation, and various other national matters.

Congress can't shirk its responsibility by putting every issue in the world on the president's doorstep, nor can local officials.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | July 1, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

If education rather than abstinence will help hot-headed individuals manage their sex drives, why would it not work against gun violence? I write this as a liberal concerned about crime and prisons and everything our gun culture does. A culture is not an item. The same applies to a cross, a burka, a thousand dollar bill, Its culture is a systematic definition of its symbolism, its best uses, its don't-ever-go-there situations. The first step in effective sex education is massive and repetitive exposure. It starts with the physical reality of how it works, repeatedly states what consitutes misuse of it, and even-more-often clarifies the line that cannot be crosse without consequences. The class then has to repeat -- on a regular basis -- what those consequences are. Shouldn't that work for guns as well?

Posted by: revelz | July 1, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

My question to Jo-Ann is: When are Post reporters such as yourself going to get serious about supporting equal congressional voting rights for DC residents, instead of telegraphing, yet again, their continuing apathy toward winning both Senate and House representation as well as local autonomy for DC, i.e. statehood?

Posted by: liberty2 | July 1, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

President Obama is dealing with more problems than any President in 60 years. So could everyone please take a step back and write down the top 10 items they want him to deal with NOW and send them to the White House. I bet you that everyone's top ten is different. Yours apparently includes a representative for WDC. Mine doesn't. Not because I don't care about the Distrcit, but because in the general scheme of things it doesn't effect enough people to make my 2009 list. Neither does Statehood for the District make my list. But I am very freaked out about the economy and health care, the two are linked, and together have the power to plunge us into a 25 year depression. You think Hoovervilles in WDC were bad - leave healthcare and the economy to fester while you fiddle around in DC and you'll see worse.

Posted by: u028021 | July 1, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

" in a limousine that, by virtue of what it doesn’t say, is fast becoming a symbol -- of presidential apathy "

I did not get the connection. All Limos say the same thing. The President's just says it louder. Now, his views on D.C. citizens voting rights is an issue that it is unfortunately being over shadowed by the Gun attachment. They are two separate issues and should be discussed as such.

Posted by: qthomas | July 1, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

u028021 is exactly right. Lets deal with the most urgent issues first. I'd love to see DOMA and DADT repealed and DC get representation, but that doesn't mean that I'd rather see those 3 before health care, the economy and the war in Afghanistan are all fixed. Remember the light-bulb thing a week or so ago. Seems like small potatoes, but it is important and it shoes that besides the big 4 or 5 issues, there are other things that are being addressed. But DC rep takes some real concentration, so it is not like some cabinet secretary with a PhD can just fix it. It will take political capital, Obama's political capital and I trust that it will happen before the midterms.

Posted by: cyberfool | July 1, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The solution is simple. Give the District back to Maryland. That way they get representation in the Senate and House. None of this well give DC a representative and one for Utah. Excuse me? What did Utah do to deserve this special gift. If Utah is entitled to an additional representative, let them pick it up with the next census. Give DC to Maryland and reapportion the state. I can live a happy life knowing the federal seat of government resides in Maryland. No statehood for the District.

Posted by: HeddWyn | July 1, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

What? The man hasn't fixed every single long-festering problem that former presidents ignored for years/decades during his first six months in office???? Why, he must be a fake and one very apathetic man.

Let's turn our back on the fake and hold our breath like children. That'll show him. After all, when we shake our baby rattles, he should come running and change our diapers immediately!! It's not like he's got anything to do these days. The economy is rolling along, the global climate is stable, everyone has health care and Iraq and Afghanistan are all perfectly quiet. I even heard that North Korea is applying to join NATO. But me, my diaper needs changing, and I mean yesterday!

Posted by: B2O2 | July 1, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

When's the President going to get serious? I think ordering *28* new state-of-the-art Presidential helicopters qualifies as serious - serious blatant flagrant disregard for the hard working Americans who have all but given up trying to protest this free-for-all pork barrel spending spree Obama and his ***** rich drunken sailor Congress have been partying with.

One cannot even ask the average person on the street what they think about it, because they just shake their heads and say, "I don't even want to hear it anymore I'm so sick of it." Hence everyone walks around with blinders on because they know now they are powerless. And all this in a short 6 months.

The inmates are now in control of the asylum.



Posted by: Rosiemeow | July 1, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

We have this problem because we created the 16th amendment (allowing federal income tax) on a government that wasn't created to support it. 'No taxation without representation' should have been enough to kill the 16th amendment all together, for that's exactly what it DOES do to those in D.C.

The solution is NOT to give D.C. a vote - that's creating more overhead on a government that wasn't built to work that way.

The solution is to repeal the 16th amendment!

Posted by: Whappin | July 1, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Holder said that when it comes to civil rights we are a nation of cowards. He of course is a member of this nation, as is Obama.

We will see who reaches beyond Holder's observation. Holder has not, as yet, and Obama is maneuvering, I am not feeling the leadership I had hoped for. hope remains high.

Posted by: khmaio | July 1, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

When's the President going to get serious?
Maybe when he is voted out, or impeached...
President Obama is only for hinself, not the people! The man and his party are destroying America through confiscation of private earnings of the middle class with taxation. Cap & Trade, Energy Legislation,
and global warming lies. I am totaly disgusted with what the Congress is doing.
I don't agree with the "Master Community Organizer Obama." and his nutcakes!
I am a military veteran who has served my country proudly and suvvived two wars. I am deeply saddened to watch Obama destroy all we fought for and believe in.
Happy 4th of July. If we don't stop the Obama insanity programs and spending now, July 4th soon will have no meaning...

Posted by: USDefender | July 1, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Rosiemeow - You are incorrect about the helicopters. President Bush put in the order for a new fleet and President Obama cancelled the order as part of larger military spending cuts.

I checked out your link, too... This is a serious question - Are you mentally confused? Your ramblings go back and forth between "How dare you talk about things that you don't like (and I assume you will tax)" and "Why don't you put a 50% tax on people who have credit card debt."

You talk constantly about all of these EPA oversights and failure to investigate serious problems over the last several years, and this has nothing to do with Obama who took office in Jan. The Bush administration took pride in gutting the EPA, FDA, and virtually all other regulatory bodies at the federal level. And we got poison baby food and toys from China, jet fuel in our drinking water, and the worst economic crises since the Great Depression.

Obama was never the Governor of Illinois. Even so, Governors cannot clean up ground water. Local water districts have this authority on the local level, the EPA oversees the adherence to federal minimum standards.

The dude who put a federal logo on his web site appears to have ripped the design of the site. Anyone can do that. Because someone rips a JPG from a federal site you think this is a conspiracy? And do you really want a Federal Government so powerful that the minute an image goes online it is scanned for similarities to federal logos, swat teams are dispatched, and guns are being pointed at your head for posting a logo?

Are you taking narcotics?

Posted by: Jim_Jones | July 2, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

The Federal Area of DC (roughly East of Rock Creek, West of Anacostia, South of RFK) should remain as "the District".

Give the rest of it back to Maryland, just as south of the Potomac went back to Virginia.

This smaller, "rump-district", should be administered by the National Park service, and end the ridiculous era of "home rule".

Posted by: wthu | July 2, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

DC has been without Congressional representation for a long time. In fact, since our founding. The capitol is the seat of federal power and is required by Article One of the Constitution to be separate from any state.

The constitution also requires that ONLY states receive representation in the Senate (2 per state) and full voting rights in the House (based on population).

Therefore, Washington DC cannot be a state and since it is not a state, it cannot have Congressional representation. The District of Columbia is a Federal territory and acts much like other US territories. Puerto Rico is a territory and it's citizens are full American citizens. But they cannot vote for the president while living on the island. In turn, they pay no federal income tax.

DC residents pay their federal income taxes. They have the right to vote for the President and can elect an At-Large Congressional seat. The District has an income tax, and this goes to fund city services as directed by the mayor & city council. DC citizens elect the mayor & council that operates under the authority of the US Congress.

So anyway, that's the history of DC... I feel that we have far more serious issues going on right now than dealing with all of this piddly crap. The Founding Fathers expressly designed the federal capitol be separate and autonomous from the states. This is a design that was made for good reason and it has served us well for over 200 years.

Posted by: Jim_Jones | July 2, 2009 1:08 AM | Report abuse

What "lax gun laws" in the District?
The laws are there, they aren't enforced.
MPD seized more than 3000 illegal firearms last year. How many of those cases were prosecuted???

Unless and until the DC City Council gets serious about prosecuting firearms crime in the city, a million guns laws will mean nothing.
The criminals know that they don't have to care about "gun laws" that aren't enforced.

Posted by: parkbench | July 2, 2009 3:04 AM | Report abuse

hey, it's not Obama's Limo. Jerk.

Posted by: novocaineforscrupples | July 3, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

LOL at all you bozos who actually that Obama was the perfect Messiah! And the funniest part is that some of you actually are so dense that you defend him -- "it's not his limo" Oh, really? You mean that the President of the United States can't put a DC license plate on his car? Bush took the DC plate OFF his car, so I guess that Obama could put it back on. And he's too busy to focus on DC voting rights? Yeah, it takes YEARS to put order a new license plate on his limo. What a bunch of jilted lovers who can't face the truth that their one true love has rejected them.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 3, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Obamas limo was called "the Beast.' The lotto numbers in Illinois the day after the election read 666. See any connection ??

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | July 3, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

The site above:

is really wierd. Google Obama Insane it says and get 5 million hits!!. How about putting quotes around it, huh? Then you get 5000 many of which are duplicates and some don't have to do with Obama being insane (like "Obama, insane golf shot...)

Posted by: taid | July 4, 2009 4:05 AM | Report abuse

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