- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In what critics say is another effort to change the subject from Obamacare’s woes, President Obama on Tuesday gave a big wet kiss to Hollywood and his fundraising friend Jeffrey Katzenberg of the DreamWorks studio for the entertainment industry’s success at exporting American values globally.

Mr. Obama also urged the studio not to glorify gun violence, but he devoted much less time to the subject than he did to praising the industry in general, often in gushing terms.

“Believe it or not, entertainment is part of our American diplomacy,” Mr. Obama told DreamWorks employees at their headquarters in Glendale, Calif. “It’s part of what makes us exceptional, part of what makes us such a world power.”

The president said Hollywood has succeeded at exporting American values around the world by exposing international audiences to movies such as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” a 1967 Sidney Poitier flick about an interracial relationship, and TV shows such as “Will and Grace” and “Modern Family,” sitcoms that have featured gay characters prominently.

“You’ve helped shape the world culture in a way that makes the world better,” Mr. Obama said. “Hundreds of millions of people may never set foot in the United States, but thanks to you, they’ve experienced a small part of what makes our country special. They’ve learned something about our values. And the stories that we tell transmit values and ideals about tolerance and diversity and overcoming adversity, and creativity, that are part of our DNA.”

On gun violence, Mr. Obama said “we’ve got to make sure that we’re not glorifying it, because the stories you tell shape our children’s outlook and their lives.”

After the Sandy Hook school shooting last December, studio executives met with Vice President Joseph R. Biden to discuss ways to reduce gun violence. “Those conversations need to continue,” Mr. Obama said without elaborating.

But the president, whose own gun control agenda stalled badly on Capitol Hill this year, added that he had no intention of infringing on the industry’s freedom of expression.

“Even as we think long and hard about the messages we send, we should never waver from our commitment to the freedom that allows us to tell those stories so well. Protecting our First Amendment rights is vital to who we are, and it’s also good business.”

Mr. Obama praised Mr. Katzenberg, who raised more than $500,000 for each of the president’s campaigns, as “a great friend whose counsel and advice I value.” He joked that “I’m going to ask Jeff if I can work here” after he leaves office.

The president did defend his signature health care law, saying that about 350,000 Californians have signed up for the state-based market, which has fared better than the glitch-ridden federal website.

“The website’s continually working better so check it out,” he said.

Mr. Obama also blasted congressional Republicans for “obstruction” of his economic agenda, as he does in every speech.

“I’m going to keep on trying,” the president said to applause. “I am, because we got no choice.”

As he left the stage, Mr. Obama called out to the studio workers, “Can’t wait to see your next movie.”

Earlier in his three-day West Coast swing, Mr. Obama said the deal to ease economic sanctions against Iran is better than going to war to stop Tehran from building a nuclear weapon.

At a Democratic fundraiser in Beverly Hills, Calif., the president defended the pact to wealthy liberal supporters at the home of Haim Saban, an Israeli-American entertainment mogul with a net worth of more than $3 billion.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the deal with Iran “a historic mistake,” Mr. Obama said the agreement is “good for Israel.”

“We may be able through peaceful, diplomatic means [to] remove this cloud that has hovered over the Middle East and had the potential and continues to have the potential of triggering a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s the right thing to do.”

Critics in Congress say that the administration is giving up too much in sanctions and that the pact doesn’t go far enough to prevent Iran from continuing to work on nuclear weapons. Mr. Obama said that although he hasn’t ruled out military action to stop Iran from building a bomb, a diplomatic effort is “what the times demand.”

“I spend too much time at Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center], looking at kids 22, 23, 24, 25 years old, who’ve paid the kind of price that very few of us in this room can imagine on behalf of our freedom not to say I’m going to do every single thing that I can to try to resolve these issues without resorting to military conflict,” he said at the fundraiser.

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