The White House is still answering questions about the president's somewhat controversial remarks at a Congressional Black Caucus dinner this weekend.
"I'm going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now," the president said before black lawmakers and guests on Saturday. "I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I am going to press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC."
It was meant to be a rallying cry near the end of his remarks, but the comment has become a flashpoint with lawmakers like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). "I'm not sure who the president was addressing," Waters told CBS on Monday. "I found that language a bit curious because the President spoke to the Hispanic caucus and certainly they're pushing him on immigration...He certainly didn't tell them to stop complaining and he would never say that to the gay and lesbian community who really pushed him on "don't ask, don't tell."
However, today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pointed out the president has used this language before.
Indeed, he's correct.
Two weeks ago, promoting his jobs plan at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., the President said:
"We’re bigger than the politics we’ve been putting up with. We’re patriots and pioneers and innovators and entrepreneurs. Through individual effort, but also through a commitment to one another, we have built an economy that is the engine and the envy of the world. We’re not going to stop now. The time for hand-wringing is over. The time for moping around -- we’ve got to kick off our bedroom slippers and put on our marching shoes. We’ve got to get to work."
It was a line that also came near the end of that speech and induced applause in both crowds.
"I think there are individuals in every community who -- who might be unhappy with a political leader," Carney added.
In public, there doesn't seem to be a consensus among black lawmakers about what the president, who still enjoys strong approval ratings among black voters, meant. And based on interviews from MSNBC this week, black leaders had unique interpretations of the president's words.
"In the passion of the moment, he talked about the complaining that he's hearing around the country inside the party," Chairman of the CBC Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) said. "And he's saying that that's not helpful. Join in. We need all of the members of this coalition working together, so that we can successfully deal with reelection."
And Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), when asked about her reaction, said, "I was like most of the crowd there, incredibly enthusiastic by the president, the fighting spirit the president was showing. I actually went in to talk to a group of seniors the following day. And when I said to them, it's time for us to stop complaining and to press on, they lit up the room just like the room in the Congressional Black Caucus. I think the President is right on message."