Opinion: Obama’s first public remarks of 2011: He speaks out on shaved ice

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He’s baaack. From 11 days off in Hawaii. Just in time to join a new Congress that convenes Wednesday with Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives.

The president and family and Bo landed safely late this morning after an all-night flight and returned to the White House this afternoon. En route from the Pacific the president issued his first public statement of 2011.

In a brief encounter with media traveling on Air Force One, the Democrat revealed that he expects politics to be played in Washington in coming days, at least by those Republicans predictably playing to their conservative base likely about this silly spending-cuts business.

But Obama also expressed confidence that GOP congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and John A. Boehner would come to their senses and work with him on....


...the economic recovery. He ignored questions about the GOP’s hopeless promise to attempt repeal of his healthcare bill and who’s going to replace his top economic advisor, Lawrence Summers. Reporters also grilled the commander in chief on the flavors he prefers on shaved ice: melon and cherry.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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President Obama’s remarks aboard Air Force One, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT: Did you guys have a little bit of fun?

Q Happy New Year.

THE PRESIDENT: Happy New Year. I hope you guys had a little fun. At least one guy had the right wardrobe.

Q Did you have beans in your shaved ice? I ask this every year.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I did not. I’m a plain shaved ice guy. No beans, no ice cream, no sweet milk on top.

Q What were the flavors today?

THE PRESIDENT: I went for the melon and cherry. I was --

Q Consistent.

THE PRESIDENT: I was consistent.

Q Could the Democratic Convention be out here -- have you considered bringing it out here? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve got the APEC convention so we’ll be back in November. That will be a big event. So everybody is very excited about that. The mayor and governor and all those folks are excited.

Q A serious question: Are you concerned you’re going to get a chilly reception in Washington? Republicans, on Sunday, were talking about the first thing they’re going to do is repeal health care. They’re talking about asking you to get rid of Eric Holder, the Attorney General. It sounds like a relatively chilly reception awaiting you.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I mean, I think that there’s going to be politics. That’s what happens in Washington. They are going to play to their base for a certain period of time. But I’m pretty confident that they’re going to recognize that our job is to govern and make sure that we are delivering jobs for the American people and that were creating a competitive economy for the 21st century; not just for this generation but the next one.

And so my expectation, my hope is that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012, and that our job this year is to make sure that we build on the recovery. We started to make good progress on that during the lame duck, and I expect to build on that progress when I get back. All right?

Q What do you think about their effort to repeal health care?

Q Anything on Larry Summers’ replacement?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, guys. Happy New Year. ####