Political Notebook

Obama flubs ‘Star Trek’ term

WASHINGTON — He is not a dictator and won’t entertain the idea of a ‘‘Jedi mind-meld’’ with opponents. There is no ‘‘secret formula or special sauce’’ he can slip foes to make them see things his way. And not to worry, he says, the situation may look dire but won’t be an ‘‘apocalypse.’’

So who was the guy in a suit and tie who showed up Friday in the White House briefing room, mixing metaphors and references to ‘‘Star Wars’’ and ‘‘Star Trek”?

‘‘I am not a dictator. I’m the president,’’ President Obama declared as he rejected the idea of using Secret Service agents to keep lawmakers from leaving until everyone agreed on a budget. He answered reporters’ questions shortly after an inconclusive 52-minute meeting with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.


‘‘So ultimately, if [Senate minority leader] Mitch McConnell or [House Speaker] John Boehner say, ‘We need to go to catch a plane,’ I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway. Right?’’

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Even if he did bar his office — the oval one — Obama said he wouldn’t do a ‘‘Jedi mind-meld’’ with Congress’s top two Republicans to persuade them ‘‘to do what’s right.’’

Yoda-quoting nerds, Beltway insiders, and even Hollywood heroes were instantly abuzz. The presidential mishmash of sci-fi references went viral, turning off geeks who had considered Obama one of their own after a slip of the tongue that was almost as bad as confusing Klingons and Ewoks, or even Democrats and Republicans. Jedi are from ‘‘Star Wars,’’ while mind melds happened on ‘‘Star Trek.’’

Mister Spock of ‘‘Star Trek’’ weighed in. ‘‘Only a Vulcan mind-meld would be effective on this Congress. LLAP,’’ Leonard Nimoy e-mailed after the Associated Press sought his reaction. Nimoy signed off with the abbreviation for his ‘‘Live long and prosper.’’

Maybe it was the power of the Force or some kind of Starfleet prime directive, but the White House couldn’t ignore comments like that, flashing in and out of time and space and mixed metaphors like a Tardis traveling at warp speed in social media. It later tweeted: ‘‘We must bring balance to the force,’’ with a link to an Obama photo inside a border designed to look like outer space.


Associated Press

Democrats ask court to allow benefits for gay couples


WASHINGTON — More than 200 congressional Democrats are urging the Supreme Court to overturn a key provision of the federal law against gay marriage.

The lawmakers filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the justices Friday, asking them to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. The provision denies all federal benefits to same-sex couples.

The Democratic brief is meant as a counterweight to House Republicans, who have been defending DOMA in court ever since President Obama ordered the Justice Department to stop doing so. The president believes the measure is unconstitutional, but it will remain federal law unless it is repealed by Congress or overturned by the court. ‘‘There simply is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that the federal law provides to all other married couples,’’ the lawmakers said in a statement accompanying the brief.

Democratic lawmakers leading the push are House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

No Republicans signed the congressional brief.


The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on March 27. One day earlier, the justices will take up a separate but related case on the constitutionality of California’s gay marriage ban. The Obama administration, which is a party in the DOMA case but not in the California case, filed its own friend-of-the-court brief Thursday asking justices to overturn the California ban.


Associated Press

GOP senators pitch plan on immigration to House allies

WASHINGTON — Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Jeff Flake met with key House conservatives this week to promote legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws and provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, McCain’s communications director said Friday.

McCain, Graham, and Flake are members of a bipartisan group of eight senators working to craft a comprehensive immigration bill to enhance border security, streamline legal immigration, ensure employers don’t hire illegal immigrants, and provide eventual citizenship to illegal immigrants already here.

If it gets through the Senate, the legislation faces a potentially tough road with House Republicans skeptical of granting citizenship to illegal immigrants.