The White House asked me to be the local pool at President Barack Obama's appearance at a high-dollar fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, which basically required a lot of sitting around, waiting on POTUS. As you might expect, he made no news at the event, spending the bulk of his speech targeting Republicans en masse. The pool report, which is basically a comprehensive dump of my notes, follows:
First Texas fundraising stop: Four Seasons Hotel, Austin. About 250 donors packed the high-dollar luncheon at the downtown hotel located along Lady Bird Lake. Texas pols in attendance included: Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov., Linda Chavez-Thompson; former gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez; Congressman Lloyd Doggett; state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin; state Reps. Mark Strama, D-Austin; Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas; Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio; and Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.
Guests were asked for a maximum donation of $30,400 and a minimum of $5,000, which will go to the DNC. A $30,400 contribution bought guests exclusive photo sessions with the president, which preceded the lunch. Inside the luncheon, guests filled 24 round tables of 10 in a ballroom located beside the hotel pool. Some guests were seated in a VIP area in front of the stage.
On the menu: watermelon salad with tomato and basil crème fraiche, duo of beef tenderloin with mushroom sauce and crab cake, chive-lemon risotto and sugar snap peas. Dessert was chilled lemon-vanilla bread pudding and blueberry compote.
DNC deputy finance director Kirk Rudy was first to take the stage, at 12:29 p.m. He thanked donors and recognized elected officials in attendance. Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, Linda Chavez-Thompson, followed Rudy. She began her remarks at 12:40, praising POTUS for his efforts to “reach across the aisle.”
Chavez-Thompson finished her remarks at 12:45 with an energizing “bienvenidos, señor presidente,” but POTUS wasn’t ready to come on stage, which led to a few awkward minutes of silence until chatter returned to the room. “They told me to sing and dance, but I don’t do that; you don’t want me to do that,” she said.
LCT returned to the stage at 12:53 to introduce the president. POTUS took the stage at 12:54 and kissed Chavez-Thompson on the left cheek before beginning his remarks. He addressed the audience from a stage at the east end of the ballroom from a lectern without a teleprompter. U.S. and Texas flags were behind him. He recognized Trade Ambassador (and former Dallas mayor) Ron Kirk, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie and Kirk Rudy.
He did not mention Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White, who was not in attendance.
“It’s good to be back in Texas, and it’s really good to be back in Austin,” POTUS said. “I just love Austin, Texas. I like the people, I like the food, I like the music, I like that there are a bunch of Democrats here.”
POTUS gave an energized but newsless speech and did not address Texas politics or races. Instead, he spent the bulk of his remarks on the policy successes of his administration, notably, in the effort to fix the struggling economy. “The road to recovery is long and filled with challenges, and I’m under no illusion that we’ve gotten there yet,” POTUS said. “After 19 months in office, we are on the right track.”
On the choice this November: “The last thing we can do at this juncture … is go back to the same policies that got us in this situation in the first place. That is what this November is all about. Do we want to go back to that?”
He criticized GOP economic policies, saying Republicans’ best plan was keeping the Bush tax cuts. Used a “car in ditch” analogy to describe economic situation and the R versus D role in fixing the problem.
“They had a lot of commentary, but they sure weren’t putting their shoulder behind pushing [the car out of the ditch]. Finally we get it back on the road, and these guys turn to us and say, give us the keys back." He joked, “In a car when you want to go forward, you put it in D. When you want to go backward, you put it in R. That’s no coincidence.”
On the GOP: “What they’re really counting on is amnesia.”
“The point is, there has been a fundamental lack of seriousness on the other side. We have spent the last 20 months governing, they have spent the last 20 months politicking.”
“They forgot I know how to politick pretty good, so I am happy to have this debate about what their version of the future is. They don’t have one.”
On health care: “No state stands to benefit more from health reform than the state of Texas.“
On the need for financial reform: “People lost trillions of dollars worth of wealth, and we are gonna be diggin’ ourselves out from that destructive force for years to come. You would think in the aftermath of that, anybody who was sensible would say, you know what, we need to have some stronger rules in place.
Touts administration’s tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans, financial regulation reform, criticizes the GOP supported measure to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
Mentions gulf oil crisis: “We are now finally able to say the well is contained, and we could get a permanent kill of that well over the next couple of weeks. But the kind of damages that’s been in the gulf has been tremendous.”
On Joe Barton’s apology to BP: “I don’t even think he was thinkin’ about the last election. I don’t know what he was thinkin’ about.”
“Right now the choice is between whether we go back to the policies that got us into this mess or whether we continue with the policies that got us out of this mess. And I’m confident that the American people, when they’re focused, as tough as these times are, they’re going to say, you know what, we can’t go back to the policies that were eroding our middle class and leading our jobs to go overseas. … I’m confident that the American people want something different.”
Concludes with a call to action: “Have the same kind of passion and same kind of hope that helped elect me a couple of years ago. It’s places like this and supporters like you that ultimately are going to make all the difference.”
POTUS finished his remarks at 1:26 p.m.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
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