News & Politics

President Obama Continues Legacy of Trashing DC

President Obama in the White House Situation Room, probably thinking of some fresh insults to hurl at DC. Photograph by Pete Souza.

The angry men and women running for president never relinquish an opportunity to bemoan, insult, or threaten Washington. (Consider, for instance, GOP Senator Marco Rubio‘s suggestion that DC being buried under two feet of snow in a recent blizzard was “probably one of the best things to happen to the republic in quite a while.”) But for all the bile presidential candidates fling our way, nobody does it better than the man they seek to replace.

In an interview that will air on Friday’s edition of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, President Obama extended his robust, if little-noticed, habit of beating up on the city where he’s resided for the last seven years. Ellen DeGeneres asked Obama, who was in California Thursday to raise money for the Democratic National Committee, if he misses campaigning. Obama said he does not, except for the fact that it gets him out of Washington, “which can sometimes be a little depressing,” according to Variety.

DeGeneres followed up by asking what particularly about Washington is depressing.

“Well, Washington,” the president said.

While the exchange no doubt made for some studio-audience chuckles, back here it lands as another swipe from a president who’s taken many opportunities to kick DC during his time in office. Here are a few of Obama’s greatest hits—against DC:

On Washington’s ability to deal with winter weather:

A January 2009 ice storm forced Sidwell Friends School, which his daughters attend, to close, miffing the freshly inaugurated Obama. “As my children pointed out, in Chicago, school is never canceled,” he said. “We’re going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town.”

On DC self-determination:

Then-House Speaker John A. Boehner insisted in early 2011 that a spending bill to keep the government running include language that prohibited the District from using its own tax revenue to pay for abortions for low-income women. Obama caved. “John, I will give you DC abortion,” he reportedly said. While Obama also said he was unhappy about it, his reputation with the locals sank; years later, statehood activists still remember it as a particularly low moment.

On Taxation Without Representation

The DC Department of Motor Vehicles only started issuing license plates emblazoned with “Taxation Without Representation” in November 2000, but President Bill Clinton slapped them on the White House limousines as soon as they were available. They were promptly removed when George W. Bush took office, but Obama’s election got DC residents excited that a Democratic president might be more sympathetic, at least when it came to vehicle tags. The first term came and went with the Bush-era plates still intact. The White House finally swapped them out for “Taxation Without Representation” tags when the potential for political fallout was completely eroded—on January 15, 2013, five days before Obama’s second inauguration.

On Washington’s ability to deal with winter weather, again

DC residents will remember March 6, 2013, as the “Snowquester,” when schools and governments shut down in anticipation of a winter storm that never actually hit. Turns out four years in the White House didn’t change Obama’s opinion of Washington’s snow readiness very much. Here’s what the White House posted on social media that day:

That real snow day, naturally, was in Chicago.

To be fair, Obama hasn’t always had it out for DC. In June 2014, the White House said he would veto legislation that would have overturned the District’s marijuana-decriminalization policy and also said he’s in favor of statehood. Maybe he’s softened a bit considering he might be stuck here for a few years after he leaves office.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.