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Behind the Scenes, Obama's Bipartisan Kiss-and-Hug-a-thon

The scene at President Obama's address to Congress Tuesday night was one of kisses, handshakes, hugs and standing bipartisan ovations.

Obama shook hands with scores of members of Congress, and kissed and hugged and backslapped others.

He kissed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, hugged Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), laughed with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), kissed Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and had words with Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who made inflammatory comments early this week questioning Obama's citizenship.

Obama had no words, hugs or kisses, however, for embattled Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who tried in vain to get the president's attention after the speech. Burris stood alone, with no other members of the Illinois delegation anywhere near him, and Obama wasn't about to touch him with a 10-foot pole.

The kiss Obama shared with his one-time presidential primary rival was a poignant tribute to the healing nature of time - and to winning.

Last year at this time, at the height of his bitter primary battle against Clinton, Obama was accused of snubbing the then New York senator on the floor of the House during President Bush's last State of the Union address.

This year, the snub was buried, once and for all.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who became embroiled in last year's alleged snub, was so relieved to see Obama and Clinton kissing this year that she Twittered her feelings on the matter.

"The warm greeting between Pres Obama & Sec Clinton makes me proud of our democracy. What a difference a year makes," McCaskill wrote to her many Twitter followers.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) got the handshake he came for, for the 21st consecutive year.

As he has since President H.W. Bush's first State of the Union address, Engel staked out an aisle seat - at 8:30 a.m. - and sat there all day, save for a few bathroom and snack breaks. (More on Engel's presidential handshake fascination here.)

All we can tell you about the reaction to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, besides hearing a collective "bless his heart" for having to follow Obama, is that several Hill aides thought he sounded just like Kenneth the Page on Tina Fey's "30 Rock."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 25, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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Gov. Jindal's speech sounded like a feeble attempt to imitate Barack Obama. All I can say further is this: I know of Barack Obama; I feel like Barack Obama is a friend of mine; Gov., you are no Barack Obama.

Posted by: Raccoonwoods | February 25, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

As hard as it must be to follow President Obama, Gov. Jindal embarked on a patronizing sing-song response that sounded more like an address to a Fourth Grade class than a serious response to the President's address. Furthermore, it baffles me that Jindal used stale tax arguments, channeled Katrina and praised a race baiting Sheriff in order to make his case... bizarre and out of touch.

Posted by: TaneLewis | February 25, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Gov Jindal's speech sounded like it was written prior to hearing President Obamas speech. It was completely out of context with what the President said. Furthermore using the Katrina tragedy to make his case was unbelieveable. Yes, bless his heart for having the nerve to follow President Obama. Unfortunately, it just highlighted that Gov Jindal is no Barak Obama.

Posted by: EPDenver | February 25, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Gov Jindal mentions word "irresponsible". I would like to know where all those 'responsible' Republicans were for these past 8 years while Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan were receiving billions of American tax dollars the Republicans were allocating to them while all we received in return for our money was the dead bodies of our sons, daughters, stepchildren and grandchildren. Where was the responsibility in the Senate and Congress while the economy was tanking; while white and black people were losing their jobs, homes, cars and 401k's. Responsibilty was definately quiet and said NOTHING, did NOTHING to stop it. Alan Greenspan, GW Bush, Cheney, the SEC, EEOC and more sat on their hands while injustice ran rampant in this country. I certainly hope Eric Holder rights the wrongs committed through impeachment, trials and whatever to make these murderers and robbers pay. Take them out of their million dollar homes and penthouses; take away their pensions paid by our tax dollars. GW Bush went to a hardware store and applied for a job as a joke. I want to see Mr. Holder make that joke a reality. Let these people live in tents like Lisa Ling's reporting shows and maybe then we can get a real changing turnaround in this country. When the "rich bad guys" have to live poor, only then will it change!

Posted by: whtlady849 | February 25, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

The Borgen Project has some good info on the cost of addressing global poverty.

$30 billion: Annual shortfall to end world hunger.
$550 billion: U.S. Defense budget

Posted by: atsegga | February 25, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I think I read somewhere that exactly one person was following Senator McCaskill's tweets on Tuesday night. Doesn't sound right to me, but if I read it on the internet it must be true.

Posted by: annieb346 | February 26, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

It must be hard to follow the President. Governor Jindal needs to be himself and not to act like the President. There's only one Obama....not two. I guess that the President was trying to set an example for others to follow, but I guess he didn't realize that there were others who wanted to follow him and be copies.

Posted by: chaniquafrazier | February 27, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

oh so we are supposed to feed the world too,you libs are clueless ,you know if we made prisons a whole lot more uncomfortable,turned death row into a well oiled mchine in all 50 states,throw in some chain gang detail just for giggles ,got rid of the weights and basketball courts and brought back sledgehammers and piles of rocks that would be end of crime.illegal immigrants got you down?make it a felony offense to hire one....see above,problem me there are plent of americans that will do their jobs.all this stimulus money ? put americans back to work making things in the usa,you know like everything we are buying made in poeple want to feed the world, save the seals whales queersillegals dogs cats potheadscrimminalsetcetcetcetcetcetcwhlie peeing on soldiers gunowners the constitution etcetc you halfwits are the problem not the solution ,let me tell you a true story that happened just today a big brandnew BMW with his OBAMA08 sticker planted on the bumper is in front of me on the freeway THE HUGE LIT UP SIGN SAYS LANE CLOSED 500 he or she or it gets over in that lane hammers the gas trying to pass the truck thats holding up his progress and then has to slam on the brakes when he dont make it.As we all drive by the idiot sitting there in front of the cones in a cloud of smoke I thought well that about sums it up ,all that money ,allthat education, about as much common sense as a rock

Posted by: jszcoffey | March 2, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

why cant these poeple pay their taxes?

Posted by: jszcoffey | March 2, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

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