Following a four and a half hour cross country flight from Joint Base Andrews, President Barack Obama touched down in the real Washington late this morning to begin a multi-day Left Coast fundraising tour.
This is Obama’s third official visit to the Evergreen State as President; he made two trips out here last year (in August and October) on behalf of Senator Patty Murray, who defeated perennial Republican office-seeker Dino Rossi in the state’s November 2010 U.S. Senate contest. (Rossi has since disappeared from public view).
Obama was greeted at Boeing Field by Governor Chris Gregoire, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, along with U.S. Representative Norm Dicks. After talking with them for a couple minutes, Obama jogged over to shake hands with the assembled welcoming committee – a crowd of about fifty or so people behind metal barricades next to the press riser.
One child even got a high-five.
Obama then climbed into the presidential limousine (nicknamed “The Beast”) and his motorcade took off for his first fundraising event in Medina – a brunch at former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley’s residence.
The brunch drew sixty-five people, we’re told. Assuming at least thirty couples paid $35,800 to get in, that means the event raised at least $1,074,000.
Among those in attendance: Bill Neukom, the San Francisco Giants general manager; Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco, and Gerald Grinstein, strategic director Madrona Venture Group, previously CEO of Delta.
In his remarks to donors at the event (which took place in what was described to NPI as an “airy, vast rectangular space, like entering a wing at a contemporary art museum”, President Obama warned that America cannot afford to elect a Republican as president. Doing so would usher in “an approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century,” he said. Obama pointed to the ongoing budget debate in Congress as part of “a constant ideological pushback” that he has had to deal with since his inauguration.
“It is not just a national crisis it is an international crisis that we’ve been managing for the last three years,” the President reflected. “Domestically, we still have a lot more to do to heal this economy and to deal with some of the structural problems that existed even before the financial crisis hit.”
“My hope when I came into office that was because we were in crisis that the other side would respond by saying now is the time for all of us to pull together,” he said. “That was not the decision they made so from the moment I took office what we’ve seen is a constant ideological pushback against any kind of sensible reforms that would make our economy work better and give people more opportunity.”
He added, “We’re seeing it even now. As we speak there’s a debate going on in Congress about whether disaster relief funding should be granted as part of the overall budget to keep the government open.”
“What makes it worse is that some of the Republicans who are opposing this disaster relief it’s their constituents who’ve been hit harder than anyone by these natural disasters.”
The President said his message to Republicans is simple: “I’m prepared to work with you but these games have to stop.”
He ended his remarks by talking about the upcoming presidential election.
“This is going to be especially hard because a lot of people are discouraged and a lot of people are disillusioned. … But I’m determined because there’s too much at stake. The alternative, I think, is an approach to government that would fundamentally cripple America in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century and that’s not the kind of society that I want to bequeath to Malia and Sasha, and your children and your grandchildren.”
The President’s remarks lasted about ten minutes, we’re told. After spending less than an hour in Medina, the motorcade departed the Eastside and swept onto State Route 520 for a ten minute trip to Seattle’s Paramount Theater, where eighteen hundred supporters had gathered for a fundraising luncheon.
CONTINUED: At the Paramount, the President was introduced by by Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens, two of the Seattle SuperSonics’ most prestigious alumni.
The President had to say thank you a grand total of six times before the enthusiastic Democrats in the audience were willing to take their seats.
Due to a technical problem of some kind, the President was unable to use the teleprompter that had been set up onstage to give his address. But he didn’t seem to need it. He thanked Russell and Wilkens, recognized Governor Chris Gregoire, and several of the state’s U.S. Representatives, including Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee, and Jim McDermott. (Neither Patty Murray nor Maria Cantwell was in attendance, or else they would likely have received a shout-out as well).
The President wasted almost no time in issuing a condemnation of Republicans’ views on the economy, castigating the right wing for continuing to support an agenda that has clearly failed America.
“The question is not whether this country has been going through tough times,” the President said. ” The question is where are we going next. ”
“We can either go back to the same ideas that the other sides is peddling — old worn-out ideas that were tried throughout the last decade, where corporations get to write their own rules, and those of us who’ve been most fortunate get to keep all our tax breaks, and we abandon our commitment to caring for the vulnerable, and we abandon our commitment to investing in the future and investing in infrastructure and investing in education and basic research — or we can build an America that we talked about in 2008.”
Obama then began highlighting some of the accomplishments of his presidency. He reminded the audience that his administration successfully rescued the auto industry (in 2009, GM and Chrysler were on the verge of collapse, but were saved by the taxpayers).
He also touted several key pieces of legislation he has signed into law: the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill, and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
Much of his speech consisted of a pitch for the American Jobs Act, introduced during a joint address to Congress earlier this month. Obama wants the bill passed immediately, but House Republicans have signaled they want to bury it, because it doesn’t jibe with their rigid ideological views.
Those views, of course, do not reflect traditional American values… and the President was, thankfully, happy to point that out.
“This notion that the only thing to do to restore our prosperity is to eliminate environmental rules, and bust unions, and make sure that we’re giving tax breaks to the folks who are most fortunate and tell everybody else that they’re on their own — that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America,” Obama said at one point.
The President ended his remarks by trying to rally the crowd.
“I need you guys to shake off any doldrums. I need you to decide right here and right now — and I need you to talk to your friends and your neighbors and your coworkers — you need to tell them, you know what, we’re not finished yet. We’ve got more work to do.”
“We are tougher than the times that we live in. We are bigger than the small politics that we’ve been witnessing. We are a people who write our own destiny, and it is fully within our power to write it once more.”
After stepping away from the podium, the President shook hands for several minutes before departing the Paramount. His motorcade was on its way out of Seattle just twelve minutes following the conclusion of his speech.
The procession of vehicles arrived at the Boeing Field tarmac at 3:37 PM. By 3:48 PM, Air Force One was ready for takeoff, though it did not depart immediately, in order to keep the airspace clear for a LifeFlight that we understand was inbound to Harborview Medical Center. Shortly before four o’clock, Air Force One lifted off for a two-hour flight to San Jose, concluding the President’s visit.