Sasha Obama - and Dad - Sink Rahm Emanuel
Updated 9:14 p.m.
Sasha Obama was the star of the first-ever White House luau, wowing the crowd with a pitch so tough that the 8-year-old sank her dad's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, in the dunking booth, according to Sleuth informants who were there.
Dad, wearing a purple lei, followed suit, sinking Rahm on his first try.
President Obama took the tradition of the annual White House picnic for members of Congress into uncharted territory tonight. There were hula dancers in grass skirts, fire dancers, inflatable sharks floating in the pond, volleyball and a feast of Hawaiian delicacies.
And there was plenty of arm-twisting going on behind the scenes at the party on the South Lawn in hopes of getting enough members of Congress to jump aboard and support the president's energy cap-and-trade bill, which he hopes the House will take up Friday before leaving for the Fourth of July recess.
Oh, just your typical scene at an everyday White House luau.
"Aloha!" Obama yelled out to his guests. "I wish I could have given you a trip to Hawaii. Given our budget crunch, we can't do that, so at least we can bring Hawaii to you." (The DJ played "Super Bad" by James Brown after the president finished speaking, according to a brief pool report of the event, which otherwise was closed to press.)
A very wet Rahm with a towel slung over his shoulders walked around the party and schmoozed with his old Hill colleagues, we're told. The Beach Boys blared over the speakers and guests sipped Mai Tais and nibbled on Lomi Lomi salmon, Kalua pig, BBQ baby back ribs and strawberry tiramisu and chocolate bars.
Emanuel wasn't the only victim chosen to occupy the wet seat tonight. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, Phil Schiliro, head of the White House legislative affairs office, and OMB Director Peter Orszag were also on tap for potential dunking by rival pols, and first children for that matter.
One guest at the luau "lost count" after Orszag was dunked for the 12th time.
The leader of the free world also sank Gibbs, though it took him a few tries. Eventually, he hit his target and his press secretary plopped into the water.
As if the press corp doesn't splash enough cold water on Gibbs during the ritualistic parry-and-thrust in the White House briefing room each day, they also were given the rare privilege of trying to sink him in the dunk tank before the start of the picnic, when they would be shooed off.
They asked, after all. And Gibbs obliged.
CBS correspondent Bill Plante hit his target on the first try, and Ben Feller sunk him on his third attempt. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times "had the biggest wind-up" of any of the reporters, according to one White House aide, but she missed.
She was proud of her pitching arm, however, and boasted on her blog that she "came close." ("I always wanted to throw like the boys," she wrote.)
Obama watched from a nearby perch, but declined reporters' entreaties to join the fun. "He won't let me take a shot," Obama shouted.
The evening -- after the riffraff reporters were cleared out -- was a much looser affair than the White House congressional picnics of years gone by, according to those on the scene.
Even the typically stiff Larry Summers, Obama's chief economic adviser, had his tie loosened as he chatted with Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and her husband, Sidney Harman, said one eyewitness.
Spotted in Hawaiian shirts were Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), according to the press pool report.
Debbie Dingell, who attended the party with her husband, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), told us, "I haven't seen people just have a good time like that in a long time. And Republicans were having just as good a time as the Democrats were."
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