President Obama didn’t attend Tuesday's ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address because of scheduling issues stemming from the rollout of his signature healthcare law, the White House said Tuesday.
Obama met with senators Tuesday morning to discuss ongoing negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program, and also appeared at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council’s annual meeting.
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday noted that Obama had taped an appearance for a Ken Burns project on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which features other living presidents.
“Obviously, that address and that moment in time is seminal in our history. I think that all Americans across the country will have the opportunity to think about those words and that address,” Carney said.
Following stories questioning why the president had skipped the Gettysburg event, given his public affinity for President Lincoln, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted that “it didn't work schedule-wise.”
In response to a journalist's Twitter query about what could be more important, Pfeiffer wrote: “Oh, I don't know, there's this whole website thing that someone suggested might destroy the [Democratic] Party.”
After Pfeiffer’s tweet got traction on Twitter, current and former White House officials mocked criticism of Obama for skipping the Gettysburg ceremony.
Former deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton joked he was “surprised it took the media so long to discover Obama's antipathy / total indifference to Lincoln.”
“He didn't even like the movie,” Burton quipped.
Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau then joked that he “thought the foam party in the Lincoln Bedroom was uncalled for.”
Other former administration officials also started weighing in with sarcastic responses.
Former economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said that “terminating pensions for rail-splitters was just mean,” while former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor quipped it was also wrong to exempt “wooden teeth from all dental plans.”
Columnists in Pennsylvania had denounced Obama’s decision to skip the event.
“His dismissal of the request shows a man so detached from the duty of history, from the men who served in the White House before him, that it is unspeakable in its audacity," wrote Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Ask almost any person in this historic town; even his most ardent supporters here are stunned.”
This story was posted at 11:36 a.m. and updated at 4:37 p.m.