President Obama delivered a tough-love talk to his biggest boosters Wednesday, telling Democratic donors gathered in Los Angeles that they need to step it up before November if he's going to get much done in his last two years in office.
"You thought, 'OK, we elect Barack and that's it,'" Obama told a crowd big-dollar donors gathered in the lush Hancock Park backyard of TV producer Shonda Rhimes. He reminded them that he'd warned that it wasn't about electing him but about getting "our democracy to work."
"I have got to have a Congress that has some sense and is willing to work and is willing to compromise and is focused on the American people. And we don't have that right now."
Obama is often candid about what he describes as Democrats' chronic problem: low turnout in midterm elections. But his remarks Wednesday came with a sharper ribbing for a crowd he seemed to think could take it.
Democrats like the fun of a presidential campaign, Obama said. But "we've got to step it up in the midterms. Not when it's easy, not when it's sexy, not when there's hope posters...."
While Democrats "don't even know there's an election," Obama said, Republicans get to the polls.
"Lo and behold we're surprised when John Boehner is speaker of the House! What happened to Nancy Pelosi? What happened is y'all didn't vote. And that's when all kinds of ... stuff happened," Obama said, pausing as if deliberating on whether to keep the rant clean. "That's what it was -- stuff."
The president was introduced by the event's co-host, "Scandal" star Kerry Washington. (Rhimes is the show's creator.) He gave a shout-out to another attendee, singer Janelle Monae
Monae, Obama said, is a favorite of both his and the first lady's. (Monae also is the sole owner of a video of the president trying to keep up with hip-hop star Usher on the dance floor, he said. "She can blackmail me," Obama said. "Let me say I did not drop in splits but I did bust a move. That I did do.")
Obama went on to blast Republicans, whom he accused of intentionally gumming up the works in government and spreading cynicism. They focus on scandals, Obama said, which discourages Americans.
"No offense, 'Scandal''s a great show but it's not something we necessarily want to be living out day in and day out," he said.
The president is in Los Angeles on a three-day fundraising trip. He'll attend another fundraiser Thursday before delivering remarks at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. The White House said Obama will focus on the economy, including his effort to a close a corporate tax loophole used by companies based overseas.