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Political Notebook

Michelle Obama’s plane aborts landing

President Obama spoke about his deficit-reducing strategy at a town hall meeting yesterday in Annandale, Va. President Obama spoke about his deficit-reducing strategy at a town hall meeting yesterday in Annandale, Va. (Mandel Ngan/ AFP/ Getty Images)
April 20, 2011

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WASHINGTON — A White House plane carrying Michelle Obama came too close to a 200-ton military cargo jet and had to abort its landing at Joint Base Andrews on Monday as the result of an air traffic controller’s mistake, according to federal officials familiar with the incident.

Controllers at Andrews feared the cargo jet would not clear the runway in time, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for their agencies, told the Washington Post.

The plane carrying Obama, a military version of a Boeing 737, was 3 miles behind the C-17 but was supposed to be 5 miles behind, because of the possibility of encountering turbulence from the cargo plane’s wake. The planes were too close because of an error by a civilian air traffic controller at a low-altitude control center in Virginia, according to a government official involved in following up the incident. But the official described the event to The New York Times as “routine.’’

The controller in Virginia, handing off the approaching plane to controllers in the tower at Andrews, at first misstated the distance separating the two planes, saying that they were 4 miles apart when in fact the gap had closed to 3 miles, the official said. — GLOBE WIRES

President pushes agenda to middle-class voters
WASHINGTON — President Obama delivered a message of reassurance and warning yesterday to rally support for a set of political priorities likely to define his reelection effort.

Before several hundred people at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va., Obama said he was hopeful Republicans and Democrats would set aside partisan rancor to trim $4 trillion from the budget over the next dozen years, a figure he said both sides agree is necessary to change the country’s fiscal path.

But Obama tempered his optimism with a populist warning designed to bring the students, teachers, and others gathered inside the auditorium off the sidelines for the fight ahead, not only over fiscal policy but also Obama’s own reelection effort that he has tied tightly to that debate.

“There are powerful voices in Washington, there are powerful lobbies and special interests in Washington. And they’re going to want to reduce the deficit on your backs,’’ Obama said. “And if you are not heard, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.’’

The event came one day after Standard & Poor’s roiled the financial markets by changing its outlook on the United States from “stable’’ to “negative’’ and said the federal government could lose its AAA credit rating if officials fail to reduce the deficit.

Obama’s town hall-style event was the first of three that he has scheduled this week on the theme of the country’s poor fiscal health and his plan to change it.

His populist message aimed squarely at the middle class — whether in attempting to feel its pain over rising gas prices or pledging to preserve Social Security — amounted to a rehearsal of the argument he will be making in the months ahead for why he deserves a second term.

Obama pledged to protect education funding and tuition credits, find savings in waste at the Pentagon and in ineffective social programs that he said his own party must be willing to eliminate, invest more in clean-energy and infrastructure to help business, and ask the wealthiest to pay higher taxes.

Republicans have labeled that platform as a burdensome government agenda at a time of fiscal and economic hardship. — WASHINGTON POST

Obama travels to California to woo big-money donors
WASHINGTON — President Obama will woo big-money donors in Los Angeles and the Bay Area over the next two days in a trip that will be the first test of whether he can rekindle the embrace from the entertainment and high-tech industries that helped him win in 2008.

Three years after a campaign that featured actors fanning out across the country to stump for Obama and employees from Google and other high-tech companies joining his team, there have been some signs that fervor for Obama in Hollywood and Silicon Valley has ebbed.

Political strategists say his base of supporters is more sober, perhaps fatigued by recent high-profile state elections. Some Hollywood liberals have also been disappointed by the president’s handling of issues such as gay marriage.

Obama is almost certain to win in Democrat-leaning California in 2012 and raise millions of dollars among its liberal campaign donors. But it’s not clear whether he can inspire the same kind of enthusiasm that led to a group of entertainers famously creating a “Yes We Can’’ video that was watched by millions.

“2008 was a unique moment in time, by definition that’s not going to repeat itself,’’ said Chris Lehane, a Bay Area-based political strategist who was a top adviser for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. “But California is still Obama country. He always has had a big base in the money community out there.’’

Obama’s trip is part of the fund-raising kickoff for his 2012 campaign, which included a group of events in Chicago last week and will continue to New York City next Wednesday.

His star-studded two days on the West Coast include six fund-raisers and two town halls, including one today at the Palo Alto headquarters of Facebook. — WASHINGTON POST