Earning nearly half a million dollars an hour Thursday tonight, President Obama told donors he’s looking forward to a “fun debate” on the campaign trail “because it’s always good to have the truth on your side.”
Coming near to the close of a rough PR week for the White House, Obama stepped away from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the evening and raked in more than $1.4 million in the span of not quite three hours at a pair of fundraisers.
He revisited one of the week’s controversial moments, when, among other moments, he called House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan “nothing but thinly veiled Social Darwinism” before a luncheon of news editors.
“I gave a speech on Tuesday about the congressional budget that’s been proposed by the Republicans in the House of Representatives — a budget that Governor Romney, who is the frontrunner in the Republican side, has embraced. Said the budget was marvelous, he said,” Obama told the laughing crowd at the Mandarin Oriental. “And when you go through this budget, the vision that it portrays is of an America where everybody is fending for themselves, a few are doing very well at the top, and everybody else is struggling to get by.”
Obama said Ryan’s budget “gutted” the things we take for granted “as an advanced, responsible society.”
Education, infrastructure, veterans’ care, and food safety are “shrunk to the point of near invisibility” under the Path to Prosperity, which passed the House before recess, he said.
“And the rationale they provide is, well, the biggest crisis we face is the deficit, so we need to do something about it, we’ve got to make tough choices,” the president continued. “They’re absolutely right about that. Unfortunately, the vision that they’re presenting adds to the deficit problem because they say they’re going to cut more taxes for the wealthiest Americans after we have seen the tax rates for wealthy Americans go to below anyplace that they’ve been since I’ve been alive.”
The president began the evening at the Jefferson Hotel to meet with 20 supporters at $40,000 a head. The second fundraiser from which the public remarks were issued entertained 250 people at $2,500 each.
Guests at the Mandarin Oriental included Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Fox, haling from the city that will host the Democratic National Convention.
“I believe that in a society as wealthy as ours, we should have a commitment to our seniors and to the disabled,” Obama said. “That’s not a sign of weakness. That’s not socialism.”
Obama called “the basic American compact” the promises of a job with a “living wage,” college education and health care “if you work hard, if you’re responsible, if you’re looking after your family.”
He hit the standard “change” notes about the Lilly Ledbetter equal pay act, the auto bailout, fuel-efficiency standards, and the end of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays serving openly in the military.
“And we are going to insure another 30 million people in this country, and we are making sure if you’ve got health insurance that they can’t drop you when you get sick — the strongest patient protection bill that we’ve ever seen when it comes to health care,” Obama told the donors. “That all happened because of you. That’s what change is.”
He promised that because of his administration, “al-Qaeda is on its last legs, weaker than it’s ever been.”
“And we’ve raised America’s respect all around the world,” Obama added.
He said that America should “continue on a course” in foreign policy that is as powerful in diplomacy as military might and that is “exporting our values and upholding core ideas about how women are treated.”
Obama began and ended his speech with pleas to put the same fire behind his election effort as the supporters did in 2008. “Whenever you support somebody named Barack Hussein Obama to run for president of the United States, you’re betting on the underdog,” he kicked off to laughter.
“We didn’t simply work that hard in 2008 just to clean up the mess that had been left,” he said. “We got involved and engaged because we understood there were challenges that had been building up over decades that had to be attended to. And we’ve still got more work to do.”
The president continued what’s sure to be a consistent trend in his campaign — name-dropping classic Republicans to try to convince voters that today’s GOP is radicalized.
“Back in 2008, being an Obama supporter, that was fresh and new, and I didn’t have any grey hair. And this time, we’re all a little older. We’re a little wiser,” he said. “Here is the thing I want to communicate to you, though — that spirit that we’re all in this together, that spirit that Abraham Lincoln understood and Teddy Roosevelt understood and Dwight Eisenhower understood — it wasn’t just FDR and Johnson and Kennedy, because it’s not a Democratic or a Republican idea, it’s an American idea — that spirit may not always be evident in Washington, but it’s still out there in the country.”
He said that Americans realize “we’re stronger together than we can ever be on our own.”
Vowing “I am more determined than I was in 2008,” he added that donors needed not to just write checks but get on the phone and knock on doors to propel his campaign.
“So we are going to have a big, important debate in this country and I cannot wait — because we have tried what they are selling,” Obama said. “It’s not like we didn’t try it. We have tried what they’re peddling and it did not work. And we have been spending the last three years cleaning after some of that mess. And I don’t want to have to do it again.”