Obama skips Gettysburg events because of Obamacare

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent

President Barack Obama is skipping events marking 150 years since Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

This shouldn't be a huge shock. Yes, Obama has sometimes embraced the opportunity to compare himself to Lincoln. And what a historical opportunity to miss: The nation’s first black president honoring Lincoln’s legacy in person.

But parks officials point out that the last sitting president to attend a Nov. 19 event in Gettysburg was Rutherford B. Hayes.

No, what’s surprising is the White House's apparent explanation for Obama’s decision to turn down an invitation offered months ago: It’s Obamacare’s fault. Specifically, the HealthCare.gov debacle.

National Journal’s Ron Fournier pressed senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer on the issue via Twitter on Tuesday.

“It didnt work schedule-wise,” Pfeiffer tweeted back.

Fournier tried again: “Serious question: What is on his schedule that is more important than Gettysburg anniversary?

Pfeiffer replied:

"Oh, I don't know, there's this whole website thing that someone suggested might destroy the Dem Party"

(UPDATE: Asked whether that was a joke, Pfeiffer emailed Yahoo News the curt reply "yes.")

Obama's actual schedule on Tuesday included a meeting at the White House with top senators to discuss upcoming talks on Iran's nuclear program, followed by remarks at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council annual meeting at a posh Washington hotel, and then a meeting in the Oval Office with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. But he sent Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to events in Pennsyvlania.

Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush, commemorated the 145th anniversary of the speech — but not at Gettysburg proper, at the National Museum of American History on the occasion of its reopening. On Nov. 19, 2003, the 140th anniversary, Bush was in Britain discussing the ongoing Iraq War.