A guide to White House slogans

President Obama has spent a lot of his summer touching on some of the actions he is billing as "pen and phone" initiatives -- otherwise known as executive orders to try to circumvent Congress. In Los Angeles this week, he mentioned extending caps on student loan payments for some borrowers. Last week, he talked about infrastructure in Delaware.

Every administration uses sloganeering and the Obama White House is no exception. It was a motto that helped Obama get elected in 2008: "Yes we can." But lately, a lot of the White House catchphrases haven't been that clear or resonant. Let's take a look at a few.

Pen and phone

For a White House that has made significant gains in technology,  Obama is trumpeting his plans to circumvent Congress and use executive orders to push through actions in a decidedly old-school way. He's using a "pen and phone."

“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions,"  Obama said in January. "I’ve got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life."

Obama has made much of his frustration with Republicans lately, and the "pen and phone" initiatives are what he's touting as a way to get things done without what he believes is a recalcitrant Congress. No word on the president's preferred choice of pen and/or phone.

Bear is loose 

 Yes, this is the one that has been all the rage lately. As we all know, Obama has clawed his way out of the cage that is the White House quite a bit recently, from walking to Starbucks to grabbing beers in Denver to lamenting the state of his basketball shot to some guys here in L.A.

President Obama has made a habit in recent weeks of breaking "out of the cage" of the White House. And Twitter loves it. Here are some of the reactions. (Tom LeGro and Natalie Jennings/The Washington Post)

Obama first said the phrase while walking across the Ellipse to a bill signing at the Department of Interior. But  like so many things he says in public, it wasn't exactly an off-the-cuff remark. It's a phrase one of Obama's aides coined way back in 2008 when the candidate would try to defy his regimented schedule. Now the White House has embraced it to the point of making it a Twitter hashtag.

Year of Action

Technically every year should be a year of action for a president, right? Obama is doubling down on this and has proclaimed 2014 to be a "Year of Action." What does that mean? Pretty much the same thing as pen and phone -- it's a way for Obama to get around Congress. Obama has framed his "Year of Action" in the context of helping middle-class families.


President  Obama signs a presidential memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt on June 9 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

The White House explains the phrase as such on its Web site: "The President will continue to work with Congress wherever he can to keep our economy moving forward and creating jobs. But in the meantime, he's also going to do everything he can on his own to fight for middle-class families every single day."

Drink up 

Drink ... water! This particular phrase has nothing to do with alcohol, despite  Obama's recent brewery stop. It is First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative to get kids to drink more water. Because, as she said, water is cool. Not just temperature-wise.

"So when the Drink Up campaign was launched last year, it had one simple goal: To get kids and families excited about drinking water," she said this month. "Pretty cool."


First lady Michelle Obama speaks about the "Drink Up" campaign at the White House on July 22. (Joshua Robers/Reuters)

Indeed. Always remember to hydrate.

Katie Zezima covers the White House for Post Politics and The Fix.
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