March 25, 2009

An Evening With Barack Obama… and the DNC

Your humble correspondent had the unexpected chance to attend a DNC/Organizing for America fundraiser at the Warner Theatre in Washington, DC, headlined by none other than the President. The ticket was a gift from a new, lavishly generous friend who also happens to be a big donor to the DNC. Don’t worry, no SP or other hard-earned conservative dollars were sacrificed on the Democratic altar in the name of journalism!

What recession? The Democratic Party mavens were out in force buying Juicy Couture, Zac Posen and other designer label clothing and accessories, all emblazoned with Obama’s name, image and slogans.

For those of you who think that the Dems are cranky heathens who hate America, you’ll be pleased to learn that not only did the event open with hymns from Howard University’s gospel choir, but we were also treated to the Star-Spangled Banner—also sung by Howard U.—and John Phillip Sousa marches at the end. Alas, there is where the similarities end between a similar conservative event.

First up was Deputy National Director of Organizing for America (OFA), Jeremy Bird. He spoke in pleasantries about how he met Mr. Obama when the erstwhile senator was a no-name candidate with long-shot chances at the nomination. He suggested that if we gave money to OFA, we would once again be the beneficiaries of a “real conversation again,” as in a national debate. As if this has been missing over the past indeterminate period? Your correspondent is mystified, since the Left has been plenty vocal in recent years.

Mr. Bird yielded to the legendary Tony Bennett, who performed a number of his famed swingy tunes. He also engaged in small talk between songs about Mrs. Obama and the time he saw her feeding the homeless. Although Bennett is a superstar, the crowd was clearly becoming restless to get on with the main event… the real superstar, in their eyes, of the evening.

Bennett’s performance finally yielded to a short intermission, where the now-obligatory TelePrompTers were set up. You will see them clearly in the photos. The speech was a scant 18 minutes long, but as we learned last night during the prime time press conference, Mr. Obama likes “to know what [he’s] talking about” before he speaks.

At long last, at 8:58 pm, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine took the podium to introduce the President. Former Gov. Kaine outlined his opinion that President Obama has “done more in 60 days than many presidents do in 60 months,” and proceeded to outline a number of Mr. Obama’s recent policy initiatives that have galled conservatives and some moderates. He spoke of Lily Ledbetter, Guantanamo, SCHIP, and let’s not forget that we “reversed an anti-science position” to boot. Translation: stem cell research will now be funded by taxpayer dollars.

Apologies for the brief video; your correspondent was justifiably unprepared. Trust me when I say that my attendance was truly unexpected.

Mr. Kaine notes that there are three functions of the DNC: 1) to be the political arm of the White House, as the President “needs to be a success” and the DNC will be sure that it happens; 2) to ensure party strength in 50 states, and 3) Organizing for America will be an arm of the DNC. Kaine opines that this is perhaps the most exciting part! Opinions vary, I suppose.

At 9:05 pm, Mr. Obama took the stage. Note that the event was slated to begin at 8:00 pm. Some could view this as the appropriate time in the program for his appearance. Others would view it as symptomatic of his pervasive tardiness. Here at SP, we believe in letting you be the judge on this one.

Mr. Obama’s speech largely consisted of throwing red meat to the base, as is customary in fundraisers for either party. Of course, he started off by commending the efforts of volunteers, without whom he would still be a community organizer in Chicago. It quickly became clear, however, that the evening’s remarks were mostly about shoring up support for his boondoggle budget and massive economic plans. Bright-faced volunteers, clipboards and petitions in hand, were canvassing the lines outside of people waiting to be inspected by the Secret Service. The objective is to show that 100,000 people agree with Mr. Obama on the economic issues. According to the president, people want to know “What will you do to give us a hand up, not a handout?” He joked about the process of finding an answer to this question, saying that in the news, “One day I’m a genius, one day I’m a bum.” Again, we at SP will let you decide!

The president mentioned some indicators that he thinks show “progress.” For example, “we measure recovery by how many Americans can bring home a paycheck to make ends meet.” He again hammered home that 95% of Americans will be receiving a tax cut soon. He also deftly took credit for home prices “stabilizing in some parts of the country,” attributing this to the actions that the administration has so far taken. Although our Constant Readers’ eyebrows might be raised, there was no disagreement in that room. Except, perhaps, for your correspondent.

Mr. Obama also discussed, as a measure of success, whether kids can go to college. According to him, “we’ve generated more lending in the last week than we have over the last four months.” Again, it is attributed to his plans and actions.

The item with which I had the most disagreement was his assertion that we need to build the economy on a strong foundation—and that “the budget I’ve submitted to Congress does that.” Stated another way, his “budget leads to economic prosperity.” He made his case for why we can’t afford “fiscal discipline” right now. Evidently, because the American people can’t choose to prioritize and pay one thing at a time, neither can the U.S. government. This argument is specious, if only because the government can and should scale back grandiose plans until we have the revenue to support them. The average American must certainly meet obligations, but it does not have to be an obligation for the U.S. government to load up its plate with new entitlement spending, social programs, colossal “down payments” and other new spending measures.

I digress. Mr. Obama also stated that we aren’t “gonna wait until we have $4-a-gallon gas to say that we don’t have an energy policy.” I hope that some SP readers can see the irony in this statement, given what we know of Mr. Obama’s ideas on energy policy. Additionally, critics of his billions in undefined health care expenditures “don’t understand” the human element that needs health insurance. I suppose that, regrettably, I must be counted among those that didn’t get the memo.

The president ended his remarks with the declaration that he won’t kick the problems down the road for another four or eight years—the cheers at the proposition of eight years were deafening—because we can’t wait. Sadly, there are a growing number of people who would indeed like to wait, preferably indefinitely, for Mr. Obama’s ideas to come to fruition.

An aside: the Baltimore Sun reports that although the DNC is the party in power, they report just $8.6 million on hand, with $7 million in debt, for February month-end. They raised a mere $3.2 million in February, with the GOP raising $5.1 million under the new leadership of Michael Steele. The GOP also reported a relatively staggering $24 million in the bank with no debt. Look for the fundraising wars to heat up as candidates declare for the 2010 election cycle.

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