WASHINGTON – With nothing public on his schedule and an anonymous quote from an administration official to bat away, President Obama walked out of the White House with Vice President Joe Biden on Friday to pick up sandwiches and engage in a little damage control.
“There’s no winning,” Obama told reporters before ordering lunch at a favorite haunt near the White House. “No one is winning.”
The president’s rare midday stroll outside the White House came as he tried to contain the fallout from a senior administration official’s comment that the White House was “winning” in the budget fight that has frozen parts of the government. ”It doesn’t really matter to us” how long the shutdown lasts, the official told The Wall Street Journal. “Because what matters is the end result.”
Aides disavowed the comment Friday morning, Day Four of the shutdown, before Obama and Biden took to the streets for the impromptu hoagie run. Jacketless and shirt-sleeves rolled up, the men were cheered on by pedestrians as they walked. “Hang tough, Mr. President” one person yelled. “You’re doing the right thing.”
At Taylor Gourmet, standing between a sign saying “Order Here” and a poster that read “Love,” Obama praised the restaurant for offering furloughed employees a 10% discount, but said the shutdown “could be over today.” “I’m happy to have negotiations, but we can’t do it with a gun held to the head of the American people,” he said.
The president has turned to Taylor’s Philadelphia-style hoagies during tough times with Congress before. In May 2012, as he tried to win support for his economic proposals, the president fetched takeout from Taylor for a meeting of the top four congressional leaders.
The meeting and the sandwiches did little to move his proposals along.