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Obama snubbed?



It marked Obama’s first visit to Oklahoma since taking the oath as commander-in-chief. On Thursday morning, he was greeted by supporters — several of whom were top state Democrats — as well as throngs of news media when he delivered a speech on energy policy in a pipeline yard owned by TransCanada. The company is about to begin work on an oil pipeline stretching from Cushing to the Gulf of Mexico.

Gov. Mary Fallin did not attend the address or Obama's arrival Wednesday night at Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City. Although she was on a family vacation in Puerto Rico, her office did issue a statement — datelined Oklahoma City — saying that Fallin was pleased Obama was visiting Oklahoma and pleased that he chose not to obstruct the southern leg of the pipeline. The Republican governor went on to criticize the president and other Democrats for supporting “an aggressive anti-energy agenda” and stopping the pipeline’s proposed northern section that would connect Canada to Oklahoma.

Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, also a Republican, also did not arrive to greet Obama, since he was in Washington, D.C., at a conference. Several other prominent past and present state leaders did not welcome Obama, who has little political popularity in deeply conservative Oklahoma. A notable exception at Tinker Air Force Base Wednesday was Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who met the president as he departed Air Force One.

"The mayor felt that since the president was coming to Oklahoma City, that it would be appropriate for the mayor of Oklahoma City to be there to greet him," said Cornett's chief of staff, Steve Hill.

The alleged snubbing of Obama was criticized on Facebook by state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft.

“As an Oklahoman, I am embarrassed by the way we did not welcome to our state the President of the United State of America,” wrote the Moore Republican. “The Governor and Lt. Governor are out of the state. The leaders of the Senate and the House did not welcome him. Where is David Boren? This is no way to treat the President. I do not care how one feels about the man: He is still our President and should be treated as such.”

Wesselhoft later told Oklahoma Gazette that he suspects people would have turned out had it been a more conservative president to visit the state.

“I did talk to some of my colleagues in the house, Democrat and Republican, and I expressed my unhappiness with the situation,” he said. “I just thought it was kind of shabby, the way the whole thing unraveled. Some of it might have been some lack of communication on the part of the White House or it could be lack of communication here at the state, but I have to believe if this was one of the President Bushes or Reagan or someone like that, there would have been a lot of dignitaries there. I just thought it was uncalled for.”

A spokesman for House Speaker Kris Steele said the speaker had tried to attend the speech in Cushing, but was told there was no room.

“We contacted the organizers of the event and said the speaker would like to attend and look forward to hearing the president's message, and we were told that no space was available and it was very limited seating,” said Steele spokesman John Estus. “We felt like we did what was proper and made the speaker available and offered to have him there [at Obama's arrival]. We were told through the governor's office that the White House said that would not be necessary.”

A spokesman for Senate Pro Tempore Brian Bingman said the top Republican in the state Senate did not attend because he was not contacted by the White House.
“Our office was not contacted by White House advance, and I really don't have anything else to offer on the topic,” said Nathan Atkins, communications director for Bingman.

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