Thursday, October 03, 2013

Amidst The Government Shutdown & The Capitol Hill Shooting, The Obamas Mark Their 21st Wedding Anniversary

The First Couple celebrates quietly at home at the White House; their landmark twentieth wedding anniversary wasn't a big champagne bash, either...
Washington, DC -  President Barack Obama on Thursday  spent the 21st anniversary of his marriage to First lady Michelle Obama locked in partisan battle with House Republicans during the third day of the government shutdown crisis.  

Their big day got far worse in the afternoon, when the White House was on actual lockdown when a still-unidentified female suspect attempted to breach and enter the grounds before leading law enforcement on a car chase to Capitol Hill, where she was killed in a firefight.

The First Couple was safe and sound, but life is profoundly different than when the young "Barry" Obama married the lovely "Miche" Robinson on Oct. 3, 1992 during a wedding ceremony at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

There was no romantic anniversary dinner for the First Couple on Thursday evening at a fancy local restaurant.  The President and Mrs. Obama stayed in for the evening, with the White House calling a full lid at 5:13 PM.  

And the man who typically cooks their evening meal, Assistant Chef Sam Kass, has been deemed "inessential" and is now on furlough, along with close to 800,000 federal employees.  A chef who is among the "skeleton" crew of 15 Executive Residence staffers--down from the usual 90 staffers--was on duty.  

This is the second year in a row that the presidential champagne was not publicly aflowing for the Obamas' wedding anniversary.  Last year during their landmark 20th, the President was racing for reelection, and spent the evening arguing with his GOP challenger during the first Presidential Debate.  It did not go well.

The political optics of the First Couple celebrating their big day today were impossible.  With women, children and the elderly at risk of losing benefits in the nutrition safety net, national security threatened by the loss of furloughed workers, cancer patients being denied enrollment in trials at the National Institutes of Health, and the closure of National Parks, monuments and historic sites causing a national outcry, the Obamas having a romantic dinner out on the town simply was not going to happen.

Not to mention that Wall Street is now in turmoil, with the Dow careening downward.

This morning after waking to the second year of his third decade of marriage, the President traveled to Rockville, Maryland, for a visit to the M. Luis Construction company.  He again eviscerated the House GOP, and especially Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), for refusing to put a swift end to the "reckless" shutdown.  The President called for an immediate yes or no vote on a clean continuing resolution to fund the government.

"You don’t get to demand ransom in exchange for keeping the government running...for doing your most basic job," President Obama said as he spoke to a crowd of a couple hundred workers, who chanted "Just Vote!" during lulls in his remarks.

After returning to the White House, shortly after 2:00 PM the female suspect attempted to breach the White House, ramming a barricade outside the mansion.  The President was briefed on the ongoing incident, the White House said, while Capitol Hill was thrown into an uproar as police engaged in a firefight with the suspect.  Lawmakers and their aides were placed on lockdown and told to "shelter in place."  

By early evening law enforcement officials had deemed the shooting an "isolated" incident, but still didn't announce a motive.  The shooting comes just weeks after the Navy Yard murders, and the entire city is on high alert.

Having no anniversary dinner plans due to the shutdown--as of today billed by the White House on social media as the #BoehnerShutdown--was par for the course, even without the shooting incident.  The President already skipped an appearance at a gala dinner scheduled for Wednesday night, and cut in half his trip to Asia that begins this Saturday. 

Last year, the Obamas' big 20th anniversary celebration came on the heels of major drama of a different kind:  The President was roundly trounced in his verbal duel in Denver against challenger Mitt Romney.  But three days later, the President took Mrs. Obama out for a steak dinner on Oct. 6th, wining and dining her at Georgetown's Bourbon Steak restaurant. 

Mrs. Obama had watched the debate from the front row of the Denver auditorium as her husband opened by offering her happy anniversary wishes, then faltered for the rest of his time at the podium.

"I told Barack, 'This, you know, attending a presidential debate on my 20th anniversary is probably the worst way for me to spend (it),'" Mrs. Obama said on CNN ahead of the debacle.  She couldn't have been more prescient, but in the end the debate was a footnote.

Though his political future was at the time uncertain, their anniversary dinner was "wonderful" all the same, the President told a crowd a few days later during a pricey campaign fundraiser hosted by celebrity chefs Alice Waters and Tyler Florence.

"It was a wonderful dinner, and we had a great time," President Obama said.  "And the waiter, a young man, couldn’t have been sweeter--very unobtrusive, didn’t say much, just was doing a great job."

The waiter who didn't say much DID manage to tell the President that his ill mother just happened to have benefited from health care reform, which was the key point of the President's story.  

Health care reform is still the key point of the President's story a year later as he celebrates his 21st wedding anniversary while House Republicans continue their efforts to dismantle Obamacare.

Last year the First Couple also exchanged loving messages on Twitter for their 20th, something that didn't happen this year because Mrs. Obama's @FLOTUS account has been put on shutdown hiatus.  The most recent tweet on the account, from Oct. 1, reads "Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, updates to this account will be limited. #Shutdown."

In 2012, President Obama tweeted "Twenty years ago today, I married the love of my life and my best friend. Happy anniversary, Michelle. -bo."

Mrs. Obama responded with a tweet that read: "Happy 20th anniversary, Barack. Thank you for being an incredible partner, friend, and father every day. I love you! –mo."

The President's campaign machine last year also released a video celebrating the Obamas' 20th, which included never-before-seen footage of the First Couple.  Again, that's something that didn't happen this year.  Nor was there an anniversary-card donation page from campaign headquarters.

Past White House anniversaries....
The Obamas' other wedding anniversaries since 2009 have been less fraught than during the last two years.  

In 2011, the President and Mrs. Obama celebrated their 19th anniversary early on Saturday, Oct. 1 with a dinner at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia.  Chef/owner Cathal Armstrong has worked with Mrs. Obama on the Let's Move! campaign, and Mrs. Obama has made repeat visits to his string of restaurants.

The Obamas' 18th anniversary celebration in 2010 involved no dinner outing.  During their first year in the White House, the President and Mrs. Obama marked their 17th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009, with an anniversary dinner at Washington, DC's Blue Duck Tavern.  The award-winning restaurant features American cooking.

Engaged over dessert...
Mrs. Obama has often told the story of her husband's 1991 marriage proposal in Chicago at Gordon's restaurant, and said she spent their time at the dinner lecturing Mr. Obama about "getting serious."  (Above, a portrait of the Obamas' wedding party)

The idealistic future Leader of the FreeWorld had begun to engage in endless debates about whether or not marriage meant anything "as an institution," and the future First Lady had had enough of the nonsense.

Then dessert came, and there was a ring box on the side of the plate.  Mrs. Obama has said that she was "shocked and thrilled."  She also says that she has absolutely no recollection of what exactly the dessert was that night.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. officiated in 1992 when the future President and First Lady were married at Trinity United Church of Christ.  The First Lady's brother, Craig Robinson, walked her down the aisle.  The reception was held at the South Shore Cultural Center.  Stevie Wonder's "You and I" was their wedding song. (Above, the exhausted couple at the end of the reception)

*Photo at top by Pete Souza/White House, NOT taken today; Other photos archival.