WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama hosted a dinner for the National Governors Association, where he urged U.S. governors to work together and joked about recent tensions with Republicans over a Supreme Court nomination.
Obama called for an improved political atmosphere in the United States, an intent he said was not "naive." He recounted the times he spent as a state senator when Democrats and Republicans "found a way to fight like heck" but were often able to "shake hands after a disagreement and, every so often, actually got some work done that benefited the people of the state."
Obama called on politicians to "assume the best in each other and not the worst, and find areas of common ground."
Echoing President Lyndon B. Johnson, Obama made an appeal to the governors to work in the best interest of the people they represent.
"LBJ told a group of governors who'd gathered just three days after we lost President [John F.] Kennedy, 'A government by checks and balances will work only when people are willing to cooperate and work together for the common good,'" Obama said. "I believe that. And I know that so many of you believe that as well."
Obama also made a light reference to the recent controversy surrounding his choice to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Many in the GOP leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have vowed to block Obama's potential nominee.
"Tonight, I plan to fulfill my duty and give you an indisputably qualified set of remarks," Obama told the governors at the White House State Dining Room. "I trust that you'll give them a fair hearing."
As to extract a reaction from first lady Michelle Obama, the president quipped that he may find his way back to the annual governors dinner even after the end of his second term.
"So this is my final governors dinner -- at least my final one as president," Obama said. "I'm just kidding. That was a joke. I wanted to see how Michelle would react."