Welcome to the Fun House: Obama Plays Ball With Cabinet

Think running the free world is boring? Stressful? President Obama tries to mix it up with a night of stargazing and half-court basketball with his Cabinet.

I imagine keeping house where one works–running the free world, no less–can be decidedly unfun at times. Yet the stack of problems and tough decisions on US domestic and foreign policy haven’t stopped the multitasking president Barack Obama from trying to have a little fun at home.

To wit: The whole Obama family hosted what’s believed to be the first ever evening of stargazing at the White House Wednesday. According to the pool report, Science Advisor John Holdren and astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison–the first African American astronaut–joined about 150 local middle school students, teachers, and White House staff to celebrate science and watch the heavens.

Obama’s short remarks on the darkened South Lawn were a call to action: “What will your great discovery be?” he asked. “There are a lot of mysteries left and a lot of problems for you students to solve…. That is why we are working to reinvigorate math and science in schools.”

Tonight, the President will keep the sense of whimsy going, playing basketball with assorted members of his cabinet and elected representatives on the White House basketball court. If the administration’s release is any indication, the pickup game will include two full teams of five and a deep bench, featuring:

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Reps. Mike Arcuri (D-NY), John Boccieri (D-OH), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Baron Hill (D-IN), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Frank Kratovil (D-MD), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Patrick Murphy (D-PA), John Shimkus (R-IL), and Heath Shuler (D-NC)

It’s not the whole administration–Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, UN Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security adviser Jim Jones also know their way around the court. And it’s probably fair to say that trash talk, but no lobbying will be permitted.

But lest one think that the basketball game is trivial compared to the mountain of crucial legislation confronting the group–from Afghanistan to health care to climate policy–it’s worth remembering what “blue dog” Baron Hill told ESPN for its great profile of basketball in the White House:

“I stayed away from the game,” the five-term Democrat says, “and here I am shooting hoops again. And it’s because of him. If I ever have an opportunity to play with him, I want to be able to halfway get around that court well enough.”