WH adviser: Obama too busy for 150th anniversary of Gettysburg because of ObamaCare, or something

This gem comes from Dan Pfeiffer, Senior Advisor to the President for Strategy and Communications, who most recently compared Republicans to suicide bombers for trying to derail ObamaCare through the budget process. Suddenly, though, the ObamaCare debacle seems to be a lot more critical than Pfeiffer admitted in September.  Today, National Journal’s George Condon openly wondered what was so important on Barack Obama’s schedule that precluded him from attending the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address:

On Tuesday, just 65 miles from the White House, thousands will gather at the battlefield where 150 years ago the sacrifice and bloodshed and deaths of warring Americans were immortalized by the words of President Abraham Lincoln. Fifty-one thousand casualties were counted when the fighting ceased in 1863, including 8,000 deaths, a toll that Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, pledged the nation “can never forget.”

But among the thousands in attendance will not be President Obama. For reasons not spelled out by the White House, he is staying in Washington. Instead of going to Gettysburg, he will go to the Four Seasons Hotel to address The Wall Street Journal CEO Council’s annual meeting and talk about the economy. In his place, he has dispatched little-known Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to the ceremonies. She will be joined there by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

Obama is by no means the first president wary of giving a speech where every word will be compared to the most famous piece of oratory in American history. Many of his predecessors in the White House have balked at speaking in Gettysburg and had to be talked out of initial refusals. They understood that no matter what they would say, it would fall short of the spare 272 words delivered by Lincoln, who needed only two minutes to dedicate a cemetery where less than five months earlier 165,000 soldiers had clashed. That battle determined the outcome of the Civil War; Lincoln’s address clarified the meaning of the war and redefined what it meant to be an American.

But Obama, unlike his predecessors, stuck to his decision not to go to such an anniversary commemoration. His decision is doubly surprising because he has so often tied himself to his fellow Illinoisan Lincoln. Obama announced his candidacy in 2007 near Lincoln’s law office in Springfield, Ill. Both in 2009 and 2013, he took the oath of office with his hand on Lincoln’s Bible. And in 2009, he replicated Lincoln’s 1861 route from Philadelphia to Washington for the Inauguration.

This is a bizarre decision by a president whose popularity has plummeted this year. Condon notes that presidents have gone reluctantly, afraid of a comparison to the greatest presidential speech in American history, but that’s a pretty thin excuse for Obama. Frankly, he needs the non-combative exposure, and the themes of unity and sacrifice play right into his rhetorical wheelhouse.  It’s yet another piece of bad strategy from a White House that looks increasingly desperate and incompetent.

Even worse is the explanation from Dan Pfeiffer.  NJ’s Ron Fournier challenged Obama’s senior adviser on the decision, and Pfeiffer claimed that Obama’s schedule was too full:

“Schedule-wise”? Talking to the WSJ’s conference about the economy was more significant than a major commemoration of a seminal American moment, and the chance to look a lot more presidential than Obama has managed of late? Fournier wasn’t buying it:

Answer: Obama is too busy fixing the Healthcare.gov website to get away at the moment:

Fournier scoffed:

Andrew Malcolm makes a good closing point about Obama’s priorities:

Forget for the moment the “flippant” attitude the White House is taking with both the Gettysburg commemoration and the ObamaCare disaster. What strategist in his right mind would be advising Obama to skip this opportunity to repair his standing with voters? This administration has run completely off the rails.