Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Politics Of The Obama Birthday BBQ Plate

A-list guests will dine on Gulf Coast shrimp at birthday celebration...
The White House is serving Gulf Coast shrimp for President Obama's birthday barbecue today. Preparations were underway all day for the South Lawn shindig, which will take place outside the Oval Office, and include some superstar athletes as guests. In a politically savvy move, the birthday menu was announced on Sunday morning not by Social Secretary Julianna Smoot, but by Carol Browner, the President's top energy and climate adviser, during an appearance on Meet The Press, as she discussed administration response to the BP oil spill (above).

"Later today, the president's birthday party, he's going to be serving his guests seafood from the Gulf of Mexico," Browner told host David Gregory.

The White House later confirmed the "seafood" as Gulf shrimp. Browner's moment as Social Secretary came as she was explaining that efforts for "phase 1" cleanup of what she says is 4.9 million barrels of oil have ensured that seafood from the region is safe to eat. President Obama, during trips #3 and #4 to the Gulf region, publicly consumed plenty of seafood to make the same point. The White House kitchen has turned into a bully pulpit for child nutrition, and giving Gulf Coast seafood the same kind of attention seems necessary; Gulf shrimp make up ten percent of the US market. The White House declined to release any other menu specifics for the BBQ, which is closed to press. It's day 111 of the worst environmental catastrophe in US history.

Gulf shrimp was served at Mrs. Obama's White House Mother's Day Tea on May 7, but no-one from the White House announced it on television or made note of the fact; the oil spill was then 17 days old, and had not yet morphed into a political hot potato.

Other BBQ details...and the guest list
The East Wing confirmed yesterday to Ob Fo that First Lady Michelle Obama will be at the BBQ, following her vacation to Spain, which started on August 4, the actual day of the President's birth (Mrs. Obama's trip finished today with a luncheon with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia), but only a partial guest list for the party is being released.

BBQ grills were set up on the South Lawn earlier in the day, and staffers were spotted arranging long tables under the shade trees outside the Oval Office, with yellow tablecloths and yellow floral arrangements, which included sunflowers. The BBQ caps a sporty "boys birthday weekend" for the President, complete with a gang of pals visiting the White House and a game of hoops today at Ft. McNair, which included an incredible array of A-list athletes from pro and college teams, some of whom will be at the BBQ (the full list below; the White House confirmed this fact, but wouldn't name names).

The President's visiting pals include longtime family friends Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker, as well as Bobby Titcomb, Laurent Delanney, Greg Orme,Wahid Hamid and Michael Ramos. On Wednesday evening, Nesbitt and Whitaker celebrated the President's birthday with him in Chicago, at a three-hour dinner at graham elliot restaurant. Oprah and her pal Gayle King rounded out that guest list. (Photo above: At the White House, on the way to golf with the President on Saturday: From l: Nesbitt, Titcomb, Delanney, Orme and Hamid)

The birthday ball game was played for an audience of wounded warriors and youth from the White House's Mentoring Program, and President Obama was joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as LeBron James (l), Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Dwayne Wade, Alonzo Mourning, and Bill Russell, among others (the full list of superstars, below).

The Ft. McNair basketball game included the President's pals and these players:

Miami Heat: Newest member and small forward LeBron James; shooting guard Dwayne Wade, and retired center Alonzo Mourning

Denver Nuggets: Small forward Carmelo Anthony and guard Chauncey Billups

Los Angeles Lakers: Shooting guard Kobe Bryant (not playing), point guard Derek Fisher, hall-of-fame point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, power forward Pau Gasol

Phoenix Suns: Small forward Grant Hill

Connecticut Huskies: Power forward Maya Moore

New Orleans Hornets: Point guard Chris Paul, small forward David West

Houston Rockets:
Forward Shane Battier

Boston Celtics: Hall-of-fame center Bill Russell

Oklahoma City:
Center Etan Thomas -- just traded from Washington Wizards

Chicago Bulls: Point guard Derrick Rose

*Browner photo via MSNBC/Meet The Press; President's pal photo via Getty; James photo courtesy of LeBron James