Karen Ocamb

Seattle & LA Hail the Conquering Obama

Filed By Karen Ocamb | May 11, 2012 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: George Clooney, Los Angeles video, President Obama, presidential fundraiser, Presidential trip, Seattle visit

The day after his historic announcement supporting marriage equality, President Obama headed to the West Coast for a Big Bucks re-election fundraising blitz. The George Clooney/Jeffrey Katzenberg event in Studio City raised $15 million, according to Katzenberg. During his remarks to the Hollywood crowd, Obama said of his historic announcement: Obama-in-LA-.jpg"the truth is it was a logical extension of what America is supposed to be."

His first stop was Seattle, Washington, where he disembarked with Sen. Patty Murray, head of Senate Dems campaign committee, and was greeted by, among others, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire who signed the state's marriage equality bill on Feb. 13, 2012.

Opponents of marriage equality are collecting signatures for Referendum 74 to repeal the marriage law on the ballot (See Washington United for Marriage for more) but local gays think Obama's support will help them. "When you have the president of the United States come out in favor of your issue, it's hard not to be energized," openly gay state Rep. Jim Moeller (D-Vancouver) told the Columbian.

As he traveled to his first gig, his motorcade passed well-wishers, "including a woman sitting in the grass holding a hooded infant and a bright yellow sign with black-lettered sign: 'Thank You! Mr. President for standing up for my Mommys,'" according to the pool report.

Much more - including President Obama's remarks at George Clooney's home - after the break.

Murray told the pool reporter that she and Obama did not talk about his gay marriage statement - but wouldn't say what they did talk about.

Apparently Obama did not refer to his marriage equality position during his 12 minutes of opening remarks during which he said that immigration reform is something he wants to do "over the next five years." But about a minute after the pool reporter was escorted out and Obama took questions, there was a "burst of applause," though she doesn't know what prompted it.

Pool reported that Air Force 1 touched down at LAX at 6:15 PM local and headed to Marine One for the trip to the San Fernando Valley - actor George Clooney's house is in Studio City. Longtime Congressmember Howard Berman - who is an ugly heated re-districting re-election battle with Rep. Brad Sherman - was on hand to greet the President and accompanied him to Clooney's house, which is in his district. The last time Obama was in LA (and WeHo), Angelinos were tied up in traffic and expected the same for this visit, as well, dubbing the trip "Starmaggedon." Some of the early news reports were shocked that street traffic was moving relatively smoothly.

After they arrived at Burbank airport, Obama and his entourage that included senior advisers Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe hopped into SUVs for the trip along Sherman Way lined with waving "gawkers." Then the motorcade hit the 170 Freeway at rush hour, many dashing home to see the NBA Playoffs. Pool reported:

"Friendly people dotted the streets by the hundreds as we got into Studio City by Laurel Canyon boulevard. Signs: "Obama 2012?, "Welcome to Studio City", "We (heart) U Obama". Crowds grew even thicker south of Ventura as the motorcade made its way into the hills. Other signs seen on the way: "Our gay family says thanks Mr. President". And: "Will trade Lakers for Bulls if you stop!"

The motorcade arrived at the Clooney compound around 7:10, local time. Get Equal was there. "We thank him for his support of equal rights in marriage," Get Equal's Dan Fatou told the LA Times, "but we need him to do more."

Variety's Ted Johnson previewed the inside of Clooney's house, courtesy an video from CBS News. The pool reporters loved a sign posted on a tree along the winding driveway: "Pot-bellied pig Crossing," referring to Clooney's late pet, Max. But apparently the pool reporters were not too impressed with the party at Clooney's Tudor style home with a big backyard tent with about 14 round tables with 10 people each (who paid $40,000 a ticket) on a basketball court. At the center table sat actor Tobey Maguire next to Clooney and his girlfriend, Stacy Kiebler. Also there were Diane Von Furstenberg, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Salma Hayek, Barbra Streisand, James Brolin. Said to be there: designer Trina Turk and Billy Crystal.

According to the pool report, the two winners of the Obama campaign's online sweepstakes sat at the rear of the tent: Beth Topinka, from Manalapan, N.J., a science teacher, and Karen Blutcher, from St. Augustine, Fla., a utility company employee and mother of a five-year-old son with Down syndrome; both women brought their husbands.

Clooney introduced DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, who organized the event. Katzenberg has been a long and steadfast supporter of the LGBT community and people with HIV/AIDS during the height of the AIDS crisis.

"Candidate Obama...told us there would be challenges," Katzenberg said, adding that Obama also said, "Yes, we can....And, Yes, we have. Yesterday he did the right thing yet again," referring to the announcement about marriage equality for which he received applause and cheers.

Katzenberg said the fundraiser raised "a record nearly $15 million" - which is believed to be an historic high for any political fundraiser. "Once again the entertainment industry has stepped forward in a very big way," reminding the audience how the entertainment industry has financially helped John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

When it was Obama's turn, he thanked the donors, and acknowledged LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, chair of this year's DNC Convention, and Berman.

Here's the White House transcript of President Obama's remarks:

7:30 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Good to see you, L.A.!

(Applause.) Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody.

(Applause.) Please everybody have a seat. What a extraordinary evening. It is wonderful to be with all of you.

A couple of people I want to acknowledge -- first of all, your outstanding Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in the house. (Applause.) Where's Antonio? Right here. Also the Congressman of this district, somebody who knows foreign policy as well as anybody in Congress and who has just shown extraordinary leadership on so many issues -- Congressman Howard Berman is here. (Applause.)

I want to thank Jeffery not just for this evening but for his tenacious support and advocacy since we started back in 2007. He has just been consistently been there for me through thick and through thin. Sometimes the 2008 campaign gets romanticized and everybody says how perfect it was and I have to remind them, no, I was there.

(Laughter.) And the only person I don't have to remind is Jeffery, because he was there through all the ups and downs. And occasionally he would call and say, Barack, I don't think things are working the way they're supposed to. (Laughter.) But no matter where we were and what phase we were in, in that campaign, he stuck with us. And over the last three and a half years he's remained just an extraordinary friend.

So, Jeffery, thank you for everything you've done. (Applause.)

And then I want to thank Clooney for letting us use his basketball court. (Laughter.) This guy has been talking smack about his basketball game -- (laughter) -- ever since I've known him. And we've actually known each other a while. It was wonderful, walking through the house, and the famous "Hope" poster from the 2008 campaign -- people don't realize that the photograph of me is actually me sitting next to George. Because George had come into D.C. to advocate on behalf of Darfur and to make sure that we were doing the right thing for so many people who were going through such horrific events, and we struck up a friendship. And this is the first time that George Clooney has ever been photo-shopped out of a picture. (Laughter and applause.) Never happened before. (Laughter.) Never happened before, will never happen again. (Laughter.)

But the wonderful thing is the artist actually sent George -- some of you have seen this -- a print with my picture and his picture right next to each other with the same -- in the same format. Why he said at the bottom, "Dope and Hope" I don't know. (Laughter.) I don't think that's fair. That's not fair. That's not right. It ain't right. (Laughter.)

But, look, I cannot take credit for this. Jeffery can take some credit. But let's face it, we raised a lot of money because everybody loves George. (Laughter.) They like me; they love him. (Laughter.) And rightfully so. Not only is he an unbelievable actor, but he is one of those rare individuals who is at ease with everybody, seems to just occupy a constant state of grace, and uses his extraordinary talents on behalf of stuff that's really important. And he takes time to actually figure out the facts and the issues. (Applause.) And so we couldn't be prouder of George. Thank you. (Applause.) And I couldn't be prouder of him as a friend.

I see a lot of familiar faces in the audience, and I'm going to be joining each of you at your table, so I'm not going to take a long time to talk up here.

As Jeffery said, we've gone through three and a half extraordinary years -- as tough as anything that we've experienced in our lifetimes.

It turns out, though, the American people are tougher. So, yes, we lost almost 8 million jobs during the crisis in 2007-2008, 4 million before I took office, 800,000 the day I was sworn in -- or the month that I was sworn in. The auto industry was brought to its knees; the banking system locked up -- even as we were still in the midst of two wars and extraordinary terrorist threats from abroad.

And yet despite all this, the American people are pulling through.

And one of the great privileges of being President is you travel around the country and every day there's an affirmation of how decent and how strong and how caring the American people are. They're not always paying attention to the babble in Washington. They don't have the time to read big briefing books on the latest ideas for Medicare reform. But they have good instincts about what's right and what's true. And it's those instincts and it's that resilience that really has enabled this country to weather an extraordinary storm.

And I've had the great privilege of seeing people in communities all across the country pull together, keep businesses open so that they don't have to lay off their employees, folks who are out of work supporting each other in places of worship and in community centers, raising their kids, making sure that they're getting off to a good start.

And as a consequence, we're now at a place where we've created 4 million jobs in the last two years, 800,000 in the last six months -- or few months alone -- almost a million, actually, in the last six months. GM is the number-one automaker in the world and, not only that, but they're actually making good cars (applause) -- that people are buying. The banking system has worked through a lot of these issues and slowly things are coming back.

But as Jeffery said, we still have so much work to do. There's still so many people out there who are hurting, too many folks who are looking for work, too many people whose homes are underwater, too many communities that aren't sure about the future, that are anxious -- even if they're doing okay, they're anxious about whether the future is going to be better for their kids and for their grandkids.

And so I always remind people that in 2008, I did not just run to get back to where we were in 2007. The crisis in a lot of ways was a manifestation of what had been going on for a decade or more -- a sense in which a few of us were doing really well but that that fundamental American promise that if you worked hard, no matter what you looked like, where you came from, what your last name was, who you loved, that you could make it if you tried; that everybody had a fair shot and everybody did their fair share and everybody played by the same rules. Those basic values had been dissipating for a decade or more.

And so that's the reason why over the last three and a half years, even as we've managed crisis, even as we've ended a war and are in the process of ending another one, even as we went after al Qaeda and have decimated the ranks of their leadership, even as we got the auto industry back to a place where it can now compete internationally, and we unlocked the financial system so that businesses and families could get financing again -- even as we did all those things, we kept our eye on the basic promise of our 2008 campaign.

That's why we worked on health care reform -- not because it was popular, but because it was right. And as a consequence, 30 million people will have health insurance that didn't have it before.

(Applause.) That's why we did Wall Street reform -- not because it was easy or popular, but because it was right, because we can't have a system in which the recklessness of a few can can bring down an entire economy.

That's why we have taken on education, sometimes offending folks in our own party because the status quo of some communities where half the kids are dropping out and only one out of ten are reading at grade level -- we can't compete doing that.

That's why we've doubled clean energy. That's why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That's why we've invested in science and research. That's why projects all across the country have been built putting construction workers back to work. All of this has been in pursuit of the goal that we originally talked about in 2008, and that was creating an America where everybody had a shot; where we create a platform where if you are willing to work hard, you can make it.

And that requires us to do things together. And we're not finished.

We've got a lot more work. And as we look forward towards this next campaign, the choice between the path that I've set for this country and that of my opponent could not be starker, and the stakes couldn't be higher. And I won't run through the differences in all the issues.

What it comes down to is they have a different vision about how America works.

See, I think we work best when we're all in it together, when we've all got a stake in each other. (Applause.) And I've said this before -- I believe that -- Malia and Sasha are the most magical girls in the world. I don't worry about them. But I think their lives will be better if every child in America has opportunity and a good education and can go to college without worrying about being loaded up with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. That will be a stronger America for them.

And Michelle and I -- people have commented on the fact that I've got gray hair now. There was a blog post about look how wrinkly Obama is getting. (Laughter.) It was sort of distressing. (Laughter.) George doesn't have to go through these things. (Laughter.)

MR. CLOONEY: Look at me!

THE PRESIDENT: I like that in you, brother. (Laughter.)

But Michelle and I will be okay after this is all done. But our lives are better if, when I'm walking down the street and I see some elderly couple holding hands and they're walking through a park, I know, you know what, they've got Medicare that they can count on, and they've got Social Security that they can count on. They're going to be able to pay the bills and enjoy their retirement.

I remind people when folks talk about the free market, you won't find a bigger advocate for the free market than me, but I also understand the free market works when we've got rules so that folks who are engaging in fair dealing and providing good products and good customer service, that they're not being undercut by folks who are cutting corners and cheating and bilking consumers.

And I'm reminded -- I just came from Seattle -- I told a roomful of folks, some of whom work for Microsoft, Bill Gates is a genius, Steve Jobs is a genius, Mark Zuckerberg, amazing what they've accomplished.

But the Internet doesn't exist unless all of us together make an investment in something called DARPA that helped develop the Internet.

That was a common enterprise that created this platform for success- for everybody.

The other side has got a different view. Their attitude is you're on your own. If you're a kid born in a poor neighborhood in LA, tough luck, you're on your own. If you're a senior citizen who, because of bad luck, got laid off, or the company ended up dissolving without your pension being vested, tough luck. You didn't plan well enough.

That's not the America I believe in. That's not the America you believe in.

And obviously yesterday we made some news, but -- (applause) -- but the truth is it was a logical extension of what America is supposed to be. It grew directly out of this difference in visions: Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody fairly, and is that going to make us stronger? Are we welcoming to immigrants? Are we welcoming to people who aren't like us? Does that make us stronger? I believe it does.

And so that's what's at stake. Now, I will just close by saying that this is going to be harder than it was the last time. This is going to be harder than it was the last time -- not only because I'm older and grayer and your "Hope" posters are dog-eared -- (laughter) -- 2008 in some ways was lightening in a bottle. That's not going to be replicated. And we shouldn't expect it to -- I've been President for three and a half years. But part of the reason it's going to be harder is because folks are still hurting out there and those frustrations with Washington and the nonsense they see on the news is making them more cynical than they were in 2008. So we're going to have to fight against cynicism and a belief that maybe things can't happen and maybe the game is rigged, what's the point. That's what we're going to be fighting against this time.

And that means we're going to have to work harder. That means we're going to have to be more determined. That means that that passion that we brought to bear in 2008 is going to have to express itself maybe not in such flashy form, it's going to have to be steady, but we're going to have to keep those fires burning all the way through November and beyond. Because I'm not interested in just winning the election; I'm also interested in making sure that we can finish what we started in 2008. We've still got a lot of work to do. (Applause.)

So bottom line is I still believe in the American people, and I still believe in you. And I hope you still believe in me. (Applause.) Because I'm as determined as I've ever been to make sure that this country stays on the right path -- we're moving forward; we're not going backwards.

Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)

END 7:55 P.M. PDT

Just for fun, here are excerpt from the press gaggle with Jay Carney on the flight from DC to Seattle:

Q Jay, today the Obama campaign put out a web video that's attacking Romney on his stance on rights for same-sex couples. Given that the President just came around on this, on the issue of gay marriage yesterday, doesn't that seem hypocritical and politically motivated more than anything?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to the campaign to talk about ads or videos that they put out. The President noted in his interview when it came up yesterday with Robin Roberts of ABC, that his opponent, Governor Romney, has a starkly different view of these issues, and a starkly different view of the policy issues, even prior to the President's announcement yesterday that he had come to the conclusion that he personally supports same-sex marriage.

Governor Romney is for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would enshrine discrimination into our founding legal document. The President thinks that's wrong. So their positions were starkly different before yesterday.

Q The campaign or the President -

MR. CARNEY: If you want to ask the campaign about its tactics I think you ought to ask the campaign about its tactics. The President was very clear in his interview with Robin Roberts about what his personal beliefs are. The President's record on these issues of supporting LGBT rights is long and impressive and clear, and he'll continue to fight to expand and protect the rights of all American citizens.

Q Can you tell us whom -- after he gave his interview, to whom has the President spoken personally, both on the gay advocacy side, and also perhaps on the other side in terms of any religious leaders or people who might want to get an explanation from him about his stance?

MR. CARNEY: I don't have any conversations of the President to read out to you. The President had quite a busy day yesterday, and it continued to be busy after his interview.

Q And do you suspect that at any point he would just point that out?

MR. CARNEY: I wouldn't -- I couldn't predict on that.

Q Is the President excited to talk about this issue tonight now that he's going to be doing a fundraiser in California among probably a lot of people who are very supportive of gay marriage? This is sort of the first chance he'll have to talk about it since revealing his view.

MR. CARNEY: I think the President has always been clear about his support for LGBT rights and the actions that he's taken, including repealing "don't ask, don't tell"; the fact that he has long opposed the Defense of Marriage Act; the fact that he and the Attorney General, and therefore the administration, have deemed Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional, and therefore the decision not to continue to defend it.

But look, the President's focus, as I think he also said yesterday in his interview, has been and will continue to be on jobs and the economy. That's been the -- creating greater security for a middle class in this country that has been under stress for a long time, even predating the Great Recession, has been number-one priority. It was his number-one priority when he ran for office, for this office, and it has been his priority since he took the oath of office. And I think you will hear him focus on those issues just as he has -- going forward, just as he has in the past.

Q Will he move to repeal DOMA officially, and have pro-gay marriage language in the Democratic national platform?

MR. CARNEY: Well, party platform issues are for the party to decide. That process is underway, and I refer you to the DNC on the question about the platform.

The President's belief that DOMA ought to be repealed is well stated. I'm not aware of the status of the legislative efforts aimed at repeal, but the President certainly supports that and has for quite a long time. I would note that he opposed DOMA back in 1996 and has opposed it ever since.

Q Why not repeal it?

MR. CARNEY: He believes it should be repealed.

Q But why doesn't he push to repeal to it?

MR. CARNEY: I said it every time I've been asked about the President's record on the Defense of Marriage Act. I mean, it's not a "why not" question, it's a "yes, we know" answer.

Q Jay, the President is saying that this is a -- and the White House is saying this is a states' issue now. But will the President be outspoken when these issues come up in states about whether they should pass or not?

MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to speculate about what he may say or statements he might issue. He has on occasion made his position known on actions by individual states, most recently in North Carolina, and I'm sure that continues to be the case. That will continue to be the case.

But I can't predict when that will take place or with regards to what state issue. The President believes it is a matter for the states. He personally believes that gay and lesbian Americans ought to be able to -- who are in committed, loving relationships ought to be able to marry. But he also -- and I think it's important to note -- is respectful of those who disagree. He, after all, traveled some distance to reach this personal decision, and he understands that the whole country has been considering this issue and struggling with it. And we've seen a remarkable evolution in the broader public with regards to LGBT rights in general, and specifically with regards to same-sex marriage.

Q So if he respects people on the other side, why go after Romney?

MR. CARNEY: You can respect somebody and strongly disagree. And he absolutely disagrees with efforts to -- this is the distinction, Jim: He's respectful of those who don't agree with him on same-sex marriage. He vehemently disagrees with those who would act to deny Americans' rights or act to take away rights that have been established in states. And that has been his position for quite a long time.....

Q Jay, could you -- real quickly, could you talk to us about the President's relationship with George Clooney? Does he expect to have any time with him alone today to discuss any policy matters? What does he feel that George Clooney brings in terms of the President's ability to get out his message either to donors or to supporters?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to the campaign for questions specifically about the campaign. The President has met with Mr. Clooney on some of the issues that he cares deeply about, in particular the Darfur region in Sudan. And the President appreciates the work that George Clooney has done on those issues. And as is the case with all those who have supported his campaign, the President is very appreciative of Mr. Clooney's support.....

Q Could you tell us -- did he mention anything this morning at all about how he felt about the announcement yesterday or the impact it's having so far?

MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to read out internal discussions, but I think the President was glad to have the opportunity that he had yesterday to speak to the country about his views on this matter and about the journey he's traveled on it -- about the profound importance of equality, about the underlying principle that guided him as he came to this decision.

He cited the Golden Rule and the need to treat others as you would have them treat you. He spoke about sort of the three areas that affected him as he was dealing with this and thinking about it: conversations with friends and family and staff members, some of whom are in committed same-sex relationships. The effect that conversations he had with members of our armed services during the fight to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." And certainly his observation of and consideration of the various ways that states have been grappling with this issue, which he spoke about during his interview.

And I think those -- all of those went into the process for him -- a process that was a very personal one, as he discussed yesterday in his interview.

Q -- the President came to that conclusion? I mean, we know he said to Robin Roberts in their interview that he had already decided to publicly take this position. So did he come to the conclusion weeks ago, months ago? When was that evolution complete?

MR. CARNEY: I don't have a specific date for you. Like I said, this was a very -- this was not a policy debate within the White House or the administration. This was a personal decision about his personal views. I think it's fair to say that within the last several months he had come to the decision that he talked about yesterday and had concluded that he wanted to convey his views on this to the American people sometime in the next several weeks or months. It wasn't going to be this week, but because of the considerable focus on the issue this week, the President decided it might as well be this week.

Q What effect did your -- the grilling you got Monday at the briefing have on his sense of expediting this? Did he say anything to you about it?

MR. CARNEY: I think -- part of my job, and I think it reinforced the fact that this had become an issue that was getting a great deal of attention and focus, but certainly not about me.

Thank you.

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