West Wing Briefing

A state dinner do-over

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By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 17, 2010; 10:00 AM

In President Obama's golf-lingo, Wednesday night's State Dinner for the president of Mexico and his wife might be considered a mulligan.

Not that his first State Dinner didn't go off well. It did. But nobody remembers that, when all they can think about is the Salahis -- the strange Virginia couple who crashed the ultimate party and are now on a reality TV show.

State Dinner Version 2.0 -- in honor of Felipe Calderón and Margarita Zavala -- is being run by a different social secretary, and there are plenty of security changes that we know of (and probably a bunch that we don't).

Obama and Calderón will hold meetings and a news conference earlier in Wednesday, which will likely include plenty of discussion about the drug-related violence near the border of the two countries.

Freedom of the press:

Today, the president will sign a bill inspired by and named for Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and killed while reporting on al-Qaeda in 2002. Pearl's son, born months after his father was killed, is now 8 years old and will be at the White House with his mother for the ceremony.

The bill directs the State Department to track countries that violate press freedoms and to report the actions of governments which would endanger or threaten members of the press.

Another week, another state to visit:

Last week, it was Buffalo. This week, it's Youngstown, Ohio. You certainly can't accuse the president of not living up to his promise to get out of Washington every week.

On Tuesday, Obama will tour the facilities of V&M Star, a steel manufacturing company, as part of his ongoing efforts to demonstrate how the economy is recovering and how government programs are stimulating job growth.

A top aide said Sunday night that the trip will be "an example of how the Recovery Act has created jobs." White House officials said the bill helped "propel" the company's recent expansion. The plant Obama will visit is expected to double the size of its workforce.

Politically, the repeated image of Obama at a place with lots of workers is just what anxious Democrats want to see. And psychologically, Obama's aides think its good for him to get outta Dodge, so to speak.

Obama seems to think so, too. At his recent Buffalo town hall with employees, he said the following:

"Now, don't get me wrong, Washington is a beautiful city. I've got a really nice office. And I live above the store, so the commute is really short," he said to laughter. "But you've heard of being in the bubble. When you're in Washington, sometimes it's just hard to hear anything else except the clamor of politics. And that clamor can drown out the voices of the American people."

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