President Obama Wednesday night defended his “charm offensive” against Congress, saying he is simply trying to break through some of the “gobbledygook of our politics.”
“We have to get members of Congress involved in these discussions, not just leadership, because I think a lot of them feel as if they don’t have the opportunity to break out of some of this partisan gridlock,” he told supporters at the Organizing for Action summit in Washington, just hours after meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Addressing the organization for the first time, the president dismissed criticism that the newly formed advocacy group is focused on recapturing Democratic control of the House in 2014. “No, I actually just want to govern,” he said. “At least for a couple of years.”
Organizing for Action was formed from Obama’s campaign organization to promote the president’s legislative agenda and, as he explained, to “make sure people stay involved.”
“What we want is to make sure that the voices of the people who put me here continue to be heard,” he explained. “That they’re not just heard during election time… That we are helping to build or sustain a network of citizens who have a voice in the most critical debates.”
Obama admitted they made a mistake in 2008 by failing to sustain his grassroots support once he took office. “We were only playing an inside game,” he said.
“You can’t change Washington from the inside,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always claimed. I’ve always said that I am representing people. And that change comes about because … people are involved. People shape the agenda. People determined the framework for debate. People let their members of Congress know what it is they believe. And when those voices are heard, you can’t stop it. That’s when change happens.”
Though still in its infancy, the organization has come under fire and been accused of selling access to the president. Donors who contribute at least $500,000 to the group are reportedly guaranteed a seat at quarterly meetings with the president.
The White House has repeatedly insisted there is no price tag to meet with the president.
“Any notion that there is a set price for a meeting with the president of the United States is just wrong,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “Organizing for Action was set up to promote the president’s public policy agenda. Therefore, as anyone would expect, the president would likely meet with their representatives to discuss his agenda. But again, any notion that there’s a price for meeting with the president is simply wrong.”