Obama hopes for extended crisis atmosphere

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama says he wants to “see if we can institutionalize” in Washington the community spirit that sometimes emerges after a terror attack or an industrial explosion.

The president made the comments during a fund-raising trip to New York, shortly after leaving Washington, D.C. in an uproar over an explosion of scandals, including last week’s revelations of politically motivated IRS investigations and the White House’s editing of reports on the lethal terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Shortly after Obama flew north, D.C. was rocked by another political explosion when the Associated Press said the Justice Department obtained two months of phone records from several of its offices, including its office on Capitol Hill.

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters … [The records] disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know,” said a statement from AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt.

Read more: DOJ on secretly obtaining AP phone records: ‘we value the freedom of the press’

In New York, however, Obama was welcomed by a community of big-dollar donors from the Big Apple’s fashion, culture and banking industries.

The first event of three was held in a five-story mansion owned by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The roughly 60 guests included singer Justin Timberlake, actress Jessica Biel, and fashion-industry mogul Tommy Hilfiger.

“More than anything, what I will be striving for over the next three and a half years is to see if that spirit we saw in Boston and West Texas, to see if we can institutionalize that [and] if we can create a framework where everybody’s working together and moving this country forward,” he told the community of wealthy donors, according to the pool report.

The reference to Boston likely was intended to remind donors about the city’s reaction to the bomb attack by two Muslim Chechens that killed three people and injured more than 200. The other reference was to a large industrial explosion at an impoverished small town in Texas last month.

As Obama referred to the positive effects of these catastrophes for an audience of millionaires, Timberlake, “wearing trendy glasses with thick black plastic frames,” according to the pool reporter, looked on with “his hair…parted on the side and slicked back.”

However, Obama said, bipartisan cooperation is being blocked by feverish GOP hostility.

“What’s blocking us right now is a sort of hyper-partisanship in Washington that I was, frankly, hoping to overcome in 2008 … My thinking was when we beat them in 2012 that might break the fever, and it’s not quite broken yet,” he said.

GOP leaders and advocates say their policies are motivated by a coherent and popular conservative and libertarian ideologies.

But Obama suggested that the GOP’s partisanship results from an uncooperative “base” and one radio host, Rush Limbaugh.

“I genuinely believe there are Republicans out there who would like to work with us but they’re fearful of their base and they’re concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them,” he said.

Obama’s portrayal of the GOP as feverish loudmouths bolsters his ongoing effort to win the 2014 mid-term elections by turning out the Democratic base, and by persuading swing-voting suburbanites that the GOP is reckless and irrational.

Obama ended his on-again, off-again call for bipartisanship by suggesting he would try to break the GOP majority in the House.

“If there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation then I want to make sure there are consequences to that,” he said, without explaining his threat.

Obama is slated to attend two more fundraisers May 13.

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