Although it was billed as an official White House event, Obama’s appearance took on the feeling of a campaign rally. Hundreds of enthusiastic students filled the college’s gymnasium and chanted “Four more years!”
Obama delighted them by blasting his Republican critics for their resistance to investing in alternative energy sources, comparing their stance to the beliefs of those who thought that Christopher Columbus would sail off the edge of the world.
The president touted his push for green energy growth — including wind and solar power, electric cars, and biofuels — as a way to help wean the nation from a dependence on foreign oil and someday insulate American consumers from spikes in gas prices.
He mocked the Republican candidates for not embracing his ideas.
“If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail, they probably must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society. They would not believe that the world was round,” Obama said.
The GOP fought back through a conference call, organized by the Republican National Committee, with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee this fall.
Jindal criticized Obama’s proposal to eliminate $4 billion in government subsidies for oil and natural gas companies.
“If you increase taxes on a commodity or good, you’re going to raise prices,” he told reporters. “To me, it’s pretty basic Economics 101. I don’t know if the president took that class at Columbia or not.”
But Team Obama was nonplussed. After his remarks at the college, the president joined Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), who is facing a primary challenge in his own reelection bid, for a takeout lunch at the Texas Ribs & BBQ restaurant in Clinton.
Waiting for his order of baby-back ribs, Obama led Cardin to shake hands with surprised diners. The president posed for pictures, signed autographs and thanked a man who told Obama he had flown him aboard a military aircraft during his campaign for the White House four years ago.