President Obama sprinted through San Francisco on June 6 to attend yet two more high-end fundraisers. And I dogged him every step of the way.
Although Obama studiously avoided mentioning the Wisconsin election results during either of his speeches in S.F., Tea Party protesters rubbed his face in his party’s painful defeat yesterday, as we shall soon see.
Protesters — from both the right and the left — vastly outnumbered supporters wherever Obama went in the city. But at my first stop, most of the accidental rubberneckers had no idea which celebrity was responsible for the annoying street closures. “What’s all this for? Some politician?” asked a passing San Franciscan as Obama’s motorcade approached. “President Obama’s showing up,” I replied. “Oh. Again?” he shrugged as he walked away.
Obama has been to the Bay Area to withdraw cash so many times this campaign season that everyone seems to have lost count.
Interestingly, the Occupy Wall Street movement was nowhere in sight and seems to have completely faded from the political landscape, even though both fundraisers were in buildings that Occupy actually vandalized in earlier times.
Let’s follow Obama on his visit to the ATM known as San Francisco.
His first stop was a mysterious high-ticket fundraiser for 25 unknown donors at One Market, a skyscraper on the Embarcadero. While several hundred protesters (visible in the far distance) futilely awaited Obama’s motorcade at the building’s front entrance, I knew from experience that the Secret Service always sneaks him in the back way. So I maneuvered myself to the rear of the building, where I was almost completely alone.
When the cops started blocking unwitting pedestrians with barricades, under the direction of guys wearing business suits with sunglasses, American flag pins, and earphones, I knew I had hit paydirt — this was going to be the entrance point.
A bomb-sniffing dog from the K-9 Unit checked out every possible hiding place — another sure sign that the motorcade was going to pass this way.
After 20 minutes or so a cluster of onlookers had gathered, almost all of whom were there by chance. One by one I had informed them of Obama’s arrival, and the word spread. A few stuck around to catch a glimpse of the most powerful man in the world. As his motorcade approached, a couple of young ladies stepped into the street, and the cop was like, “Whoa whoa whoa, are you out of your mind? Do you want to get shot? Get back on the sidewalk!”
They stepped back, but the cop moved in to ensure compliance.
Hilariously, at this exact moment, an open-topped tour bus ran the barricade on the other side of the intersection, and was directed by tense cops down a side street. Never before was the cliché, “Move along, nothing to see here” more appropriate. Apparently neither the driver nor the tourists had the slightest clue that they missed seeing the president by just a few seconds.
The first of two identical limousines drove by. People waved and yelled. But as an old Obama Hand I know that he’s almost never in the first limousine — he’s in the second one. I squinted through the window and saw that I was correct — it was a body-double.
Then the actual presidential limousine cruised past. Interestingly, not only were the two vehicles visually identical, but they even had the same license plate number (800 002). Strange!
As you can see from the people across the street, the misdirection worked pretty well — most people were waving at the first limousine, while Obama went unnoticed.
But that was definitely him in the back seat. His jug ears gave him away, despite the poor visibility.
“Hello, Mr. Body Double!” everyone waved at the first car, as Obama slipped past them in the second.
Obama himself gave a perfunctory wave to my side of the street, though he had turned his head to talk to the guy next to him.
The crowd of blockaded pedestrians had grown to a couple hundred people; some decided to wave at the second limousine, just in case, even though he wasn’t really visible from that side of the street.
Obama finally turned his head to observe the passing peons. Too bad each of us didn’t have a spare $35,800, so we could actually see him in person! I guess that’s a privilege reserved for the elite.
The person next to me reached out a desperate, pleading hand. It seemed symbolic of something, though I’m not sure what.
The small crowd of about 40 people on my side of the street contained the only enthusiastic Obama fans I encountered all day. Some of the rubberneckers jumped up and down in excitement.
As soon as he passed, I scampered into the One Market complex. Oddly, despite all the security outside, the building remained completely open, with no guards. The elevators had all been blocked off, so scores of frustrated office workers gathered in the lobby. Word began to spread that Obama was in the building, so out came the cell phones to snap pictures of the President. But I could tell at a glance that they were all going to be disappointed: everyone should have realized that the complete lack of Secret Service agents and security police outside the elevators meant that there was no way he was going to emerge unguarded into a crowd like this. He surely zipped up a service elevator. He never came out.
But while we were waiting something interesting happened anyway. A White House staffer ushered the White House press pool through the uncaring crowd.
Each one wore a special hexagonal White House press pass. But since they were excluded from this private mystery fundraiser, they were probably being ushered into a waiting area so they couldn’t see who was meeting with him upstairs.
I also took note of (and tried, with only marginal success, to snap pictures of) the strange Soviet-style red-and-gold pins each journalist wore. There were two styles: arch-shaped for the professional media…
…and hexagonal for Obama’s staff photographers. Or at least that was my best guess.
Needless to say, I was not wearing a pin of any kind. All the most newsworthy stuff is outside anyway.
When I got back to the main protest area, the media were still interviewing Tea Party members, even as the protest was breaking up.
The Tea Partiers gathered up their materials and headed off to the next event.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: a cotillion of Romney supporters strolling through downtown San Francisco.
Fundraiser #2 was nearby in a classic old temple of capitalism called The Merchants’ Exchange, at the corner of Montgomery and California.
Barricades up and down the block and nearby streets had corralled protesters of all stripes into narrow “demonstration zones.” This was the main one, facing the site of the fundraiser across the street.
Once again, almost everyone naively assumed that Obama would just drive up and enter through the front door. But I know that Obama’s a back-door man, so I went on a huge detour to find the “Presidential Tent,” a special security covering he uses when there is no underground garage; his limousine pulls into the tent, and only after he is completely out of sight does he exit the vehicle, then pass through a tent tunnel to the secured building. I found the only view of the tent with a telephoto lens down Leidesdorff Street, a nearby alleyway.
The protesters, ironically, were all forced to stand directly in front of the Wells Fargo world headquarters, which features this opulent but authentic 19th-century stage coach in the lobby of its home branch. “O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street….”
And then things got ugly for Barack Obama. The Tea Party was out in force, and the crowd was bristling with Romney placards, “Nobama” fingers, and biting sarcastic signs.
Obama’s first post-Wisconsin fundraiser — this event happened only 15 hours after the Wisconsin election results came in — and the narrative has already blossomed. The Tea Party is nimble on its feet! This meme will torture Obama over the upcoming weeks.
Breitbart would be proud.
In this video sent in by a contributor, the Tea Party chants “With Obama what do you get? Nothing but crushing debt
But it wasn’t all Tea Partiers. Although the crowd was 100% anti-Obama, it was about evenly split between critics attacking him from the right and others attacking him from the left. The far-left activist group World Can’t Wait showed up to protest Obama’s use of drones.
In another submitted video, World Can’t Wait demands that Obama be tried for war crimes:
Protester #1: Did you see the babies killed by the drones? Did you see the wedding parties slaughtered by the drones? Bush sent less than one-sixth of the drones to attack and murder people all over the Middle East than Obama has done just in the time he’s been in office. Crimes are crimes, no matter who commits them. War crimes are war crimes, no matter who commits them.
Protester #2: Obama to the Hague! Obama to the Hague!
Greenpeace and other environmental groups dressed up in realistic polar bear costumes and not-quite-realistic polar bear hats to protest any potential oil drilling in the arctic.
Insanity! In more ways than one.
A small Code Pink contingent joined the anti-drone brigade.
But where was the legendary, game-changing Occupy Wall Street movement, the left-wing replacement for the Tea Party?
Here it was. Or, at least a single woman wearing an “Occupy Oakland” t-shirt. Aside from that, they were notably absent. Theories as to why:
a. They already now agree with most of Obama’s policies, so there’d be no reason to protest him;
b. The Occupy movement is basically extinct and irrelevant;
c. They still exist, but they’re a bunch of flaky losers who can’t get their act together;
d. They have better things to do, like breaking windows and stealing farmland.
Any alternate theories? I vote for a, b, c and d.
The lone Occupier briefly got in a shouting match with a young Tea Partier, but no one else joined in and so the tiff rapidly faded.
Another World Can’t Waiter explains to a reporter, very very calmly, why he’s against President Obama’s drone assassination program.
World Can’t Wait used their megaphone to endlessly eviscerate Obama over his “illegal” drone strike program, while just steps away the Tea Party eviscerated him over his fiscal policies. There was a brief verbal tussle over whose Obama criticisms were more important, but this fight also lasted just a short time and the two otherwise bitter political opponents coexisted for the afternoon, content to let Obama take crossfire from all directions, and to minimize friendly fire in the Big Tent anti-Obama Camp.
Even so, I can’t endure a Mercedes Benz logo passing for a peace sign on a leftist banner. Why oh why can’t they get their own symbol right?
The security precautions at this event were interesting. Because the century-old Merchants’ Exchange building was built, per the style back then, right up to the sidewalk, this unfortunately makes it vulnerable to truck-bomb attacks; to forestall this possibility, the Secret Service ordered two huge dump-trucks to block the street, to prevent kamikaze drivers from even entering the block.
Meanwhile, on rooftops around the building, police snipers scanned the crowds for malefactors.
“You want to go where? I don’t think so. Move along.”
Your picture-perfect San Francisco postcard for the day. Even the cable cars were stopped in their tracks, and had to retreat back up through Chinatown.
There was a brief flurry of excitement as a celebrity showed up. Was it Obama? Awwwww, no; it was just Lt. Governor (and former SF Mayor) Gavin Newsom showing up to greet Obama. Drat!
And then the crowd’s catcalls suddenly increased in volume, indicating the arrival of The One, riding the same limousine from the other event. But he quickly turned left, as I knew he would, into the side alley with the tent, so he never even drove past the crowd. Most people, however, could not get a good view of what happened.
As a result, when the decoy limousine parked directly in front of the crowd, everyone went berserk, expecting Obama to emerge. But it was all a ruse.
He was instead already inside the building, “digging for more gold,” as one Tea Partier put it.
“This account is overdrawn. Please try again after you have balanced the budget.”
Michelle’s free-spending ways also came under attack.
Screw Occupy and their lame “99%” gimmick. This is the meme that changed the American political landscape.
The leftists, meanwhile, mostly inhabited their own universe.
The campaign begins in earnest today!