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Obama Brings A Bit Of Hawaii To Washington

It may be the most irresistible event in Washington since the Inauguration.

President Obama is bringing a bit of his Hawaii birthplace to the South Lawn of the White House this evening, staging a luau for members of Congress and their families.

The White House residence staff spent the day putting up Tiki huts and torches on the grounds of the executive mansion, pictured left.

But what will make the evening irresistible to a political crowd is the chance to drop White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel into a tank of water.

A spokesman says the luau will feature a dunk tank and Emanuel will be one of three senior presidential advisors to take a turn at getting a soaking. He'll be joined by press secretary Robert Gibbs and congressional liaison Phil Schilero.

Emanuel, known for his hardball approach to politics and profanity-laced rhetoric, is sure to draw a long line of would-be dunkers.

The food will include traditional Hawaiian fare.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
"You know, the chefs have been working pretty hard on this whole luau theme," said Mr. Obama this morning, pictured left with the First Lady Michelle Obama this morning. But he was quick to add, "I don't think we're gonna have an actual pig on a spit."

First Lady Michelle Obama was excited about this evening's soiree as well.

"We've got a great picnic planned," she told an audience of volunteers at a United We Serve project this morning at Fort McNair. She, Mr. Obama, and her daughter Sasha are seen participating in the community service initiative.

She said they'll even have some hula dancers performing at the luau, and then gave her arms and hips a little hula shake as if to demonstrate what's in store.

"Try that again," said Mr. Obama, both surprised and impressed with his wife's moves.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
She obliged and gave her arms and hips another back and forth, without benefit of a grass skirt. The audience burst into laughter and applause.

This evening's event will also feature hula lessons, Polynesian dancers and fire blowers. A DJ will not only play Hawaiian music, but also the Beach Boys and Elvis. And all 2,000 guests will be presented with plastic leis.

It's become a presidential tradition to host an evening picnic for congressional families at this time of year. Most of former President George W. Bush's gatherings had a country-western theme. The Oak Ridge Boys performed at last year's event on June 5.

Who pays for the partying? A White House spokesman said that "as in past years," the White House covers the cost. That means all of us taxpayers.

So Rahm Emanuel is not the only one getting soaked tonight.

Watch video of Michelle Obama below:

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here:
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