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« Strategy Memo: Green Day | Blog Home Page | House Will Vote on D.C. Voting Rights Bill »

Shamrock, Steeler, And "Just Say No"

Before events to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, President Obama began his public schedule with remarks on his budget plan this morning. Appearing with the chairmen of the House and Senate Banking Committees -- Democrats John Spratt and Kent Conrad, respectively -- Obama renewed his call on Republicans to do more than "just say no."

That "is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs," he said. "It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policy is proposed by the other party. The American people sent us here to get things done. And in this moment of enormous challenge, they are watching and waiting for us to lead."

Obama returned focus to the budget after recent events on small businesses and the stimulus package. He again defended the scope of the plan, by saying "that the challenges we face are too large to ignore," and that just as Americans are facing multiple challenges at once, so should their government.

"To kick these problems down the road for another four years or another eight years would be to continue the same irresponsibility that led us to this point," he said.

That's a message he'll take on the road tomorrow in a trip to California. But before that, he will spend the rest of his day marking the St. Patrick's Day holiday, as he did with the annual Shamrock Ceremony with the Irish prime minister, or Taoiseach. He used the event to announce Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney as his next ambassador to Ireland. Rooney, in addition to owning the reigning Super Bowl Champions, was an early supporter of Obama.

"The bond between our countries could not be stronger," Obama said. " As somebody who comes from Chicago, I know a little bit about Ireland, and the warmth, the good humor, and the fierce passion and intelligence of the Irish people is something that has informed our own culture, as well. And so that's why this day and this celebration is so important."

He even joked that he and Taoiseach Brian Cowen may be related, with Obama's great-great-great grandfather hailing from County Offaly, which Cowen represents.

"I have checked, and unfortunately, there are no Kearneys on the electoral register anymore in my electoral district," Cowen later said. "But if there were, I assure you, I'd have them on my campaign team."