President Obama today spent an hour greeting America’s Olympians, a questionable use of precious presidential time coming just days after the White House said scheduling problems would prevent Obama from meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu later this month.
At a White House event honoring the Olympians, First Lady Michelle Obama proclaimed that her husband intended to greet every Olympian and Paralympian in attendance “even if it breaks his schedule,” and she meant it.
The event began at 10:10 am when Obama, Michelle, and Vice President Biden emerged from the White House strode onto the South Lawn.
“I’m the fan in chief,” Obama declared. After finishing his remarks at about 10:25 am, Obama spent the next 45 minutes shaking hands, schmoozing, and taking photos with the assembled athletes.
Obama finally reentered the White House at 11:10 am. Most presidential events honoring athletes take no more than 15 minutes or so.
Obama’s Olympic distraction occurred even as he seeks to balance a busy campaign schedule with his official duties and faces a growing international crisis in the Middle East featuring virulent – and deadly – anti-American protests.
Netanyahu, who has grown increasingly frustrated with what he sees as U.S. inaction with respect to Iran, will be in the United States for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly. Netanyahu reportedly asked to meet with Obama but was refused, with the White House citing conflicting schedules.