President Obama was in Seattle yesterday for two big fundraising events. Here's how it all looked from the vantage point of the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner, who acted as the local pool reporter while the president was in town—and got to see the art collection of Jon and Mary Shirley, giant Koi, and Obama's latest retort to those "class warfare" charges.
All pool reports via the White House Press Office:
Pool Report 1: POTUS touched down in Air Force One just before noon, as sudden wind and rain gusted, only to clear momentarily as POTUS exited onto the Boeing Field tarmac. POTUS greeted by Gov. Chris Gregoire, King County Exec Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Congressman Norm Dicks. POTUS jogged to crowd of supporters lining field for a few minutes before departing for first fundraiser, at Medina home of former Microsoft exec Jon Shirley, $35,800 a couple. Motorcade is en route now.
Sent from my iPad
Pool Report 2: POTUS arrived at the Medina home of Jon & Mary Shirley, after crossing the 520 floating bridge, with the water whipping around in the rain and wind. The Shirley home looks more museum than home, as the former Microsoft exec and his wife are known for a massive collection of sculptures and other modern art. That includes a giant safety pin sculpture, among others in the front lawn. The residence is more than 27,000 square feet and the walls are decked out in paintings. POTUS was briefly introduced by Jon Shirley and began his remarks at 12:52 p.m. The crowd of 65 people (new figure from Democratic official) was seated at round tables in a room that had an art gallery look and feel, complete with high ceilings. The Shirleys are huge donors to the Seattle Art Museum and helped launch the Olympic Sculpture Park downtown. The crowd, which paid $35,800 per couple to be here, rose to applaud the president as he entered the room to speak. POTUS started off complimenting the artwork as "spectacular" and then made a boo boo. He thanked "Mark" for hosting the event, before he was corrected by the crowd who murmured "Jon." POTUS said he was grateful to the Shirleys for hosting, and launched into a talk about the economy. He said "We are going through as tough a time as we have gone through in my life time." POTUS said he had helped "stablize" the economy, but at a level that still left too many people hurting. After being elected, POTUS recalled, "I warned everyone that this was going to be hard, that this wasn't the end of a journey..." but the beginning. POTUS then targeted Republicans, saying he'd hoped the economic crisis would have led them to lay aside partisanship. "That was not the decision they made," POTUS said, slamming the GOP for opposing "any kind of sensible reform." He raised the ongoing dispute over disaster relief, noting that some Republicans have blocked the plan even though they represent areas hit hardest by natural disasters. He touted his jobs plan which he said would put 1.9m people back to work. POTUS said 2012 will be tough. He drew laughs from the crowd as he recalled the shiny happy feeling supporters had following his 2008, noting it was actually pretty tough too - it wasn't all "Hope" posters and Bruce Springsteen concerts, he said. POTUS said he's actually accomplished a lot of what he set out to do - he put the figure at 80% and asked for help getting reelected so he could finish the remaining 20%. POTUS delivered all this is a low key way, occassionally jabbing one hand to make points as the other held a wireless mic. He stood on an elevated walkway a couple feet higher than the crowd. After concluding his intro, POTUS started to field questions from the well-heeled audience. Your pooler was escorted from the room as the Q&A session began with a query about the economy. As of 1:44 p.m. press was awaiting departure in the motorcade, after passing a pond of the most enormous koi (?) your pooler has seen. Salmon sized. UPDATE: Motorcade departed about 1:53 pm
Pool Report 3: POTUS arrived in downtown Seattle, passing streets thronged with supporters and demonstrators, holding signs such as "Fair taxation: tax the rich." Inside the Paramount, there was a festive atmosphere with guests chatting at tables on the main floor - those ran from $500 up to $7500 depending on how close they were to stage. The stage was decked out with six U.S. flags behind the podium and a row of ferns in front. At about 2:35 p.m., basketball legends Lenny Wilkens (former Sonics coach) and Bill Russell (who had some success with a team known as the Boston Celtics). The gentlemen were there to introduce POTUS. "I'm proud to stand before you to support our president," Russell said, adding the POTUS was demonstrating "strong leadership" in a time of crisis. They talked about the need for Congress to put country first and pass the president's jobs bill.
POTUS took the stage just before 2:40 p.m. wearing a white dress shirt and no coat. He gave a thumbs up to Wilkens and shook hands with Russell. The crowd, estimated at more than 1750, rose and cheered, snapping pics and video with their phones. POTUS said how wonderful it was to be introduced by two hall of famers and drew laughs when he said "I don't know if you guys notice that Bill needs a higher mic. It was a little low for him." (This is true: Russell was hard to hear.) POTUS thanked Gov. Gregoire and the Robert Cray band by name and the state's Congressional delegation in general.
POTUS said how thrilled he was to be "in this gorgeous city", noting he'd even came out here during a Bears-Packers game. "And that tells you how much I need your help," he said. POTUS talked about the difficulties of the "once in a lifetime" recession that built over the preceding decade. He said the question now "is not whether this country has been going through tough times, the question is where we are going next." Framed the 2012 election as a choice between the "old worn out ideas" that were tried over the last 10 years, where corporations write their own rules and the wealthy get tax breaks, and building an America "where everybody gets a fair shake."
A list of the POTUS' accomplishments followed, from student loan reforms to equal pay law to the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (which received the longest and loudest applause.) Then POTUS called on the crowd to push Congress to pass his jobs bill, saying its elements have historically had bipartisan support and it's all paid for. "Congress should pass this bill right away," he said, so that America could build new roads, rail lines and airports and such. "Republicans used to like roads, remember that?" he said, to laughs. He appeared to address Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn: "Mr Mayor, you remember, don't you?"
POTUS talked up his tax increase on millioinares, repeating his line that Warren Buffet's secretary shouldn't pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. "The other side says 'hold on, that's class warfare," POTUS noted. "The only class warfare I've seen is the battle being waged against the middle class in this country for decades." His plan, he said, would merely make the rich pay their fair share.
POTUS called on the crowd to bring back that old 2008 hopey feeling. He said he knew they felt discouraged and that they may still have that old 'Hope' poster in the back room somewhere. He wanted the crowd to fight "that natural tendency to sink back into cynicism, to say you know what, this can't be fixed." But, he said "that spirit we captured in 2008, we need that spirit more than ever."
"I need you guys to shake off any doldrums. I need you to decide right here and right now. Talk to your friends and neighbers and coworkers and tell them, you know what? We're not finished."
The crowd applauded loudly, and one woman near the media said loudly "We got you."
POTUS concluded his speech at 3:07 or so and waved to the crowd before exiting the stage.
The motorcade zipped back to Boeing Field and departed just before 4 p.m.
FINAL NOTE: other noteworthy attendees at the earlier fundraiser in Medina included Costco CEO Jim Sinegal, Gerald Grinstein (former Delta CEO, strategic director at Madrona Venture Group), and Bill Neukom (SF Giants owner), according to Democratic official.