Obama in Palo Alto: Fundraising with the Rich Radicals
President Obama arrived in the Bay Area on Thursday for his umpty-umpteenth round of fundraisers with big-money donors, this time to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
His first stop at the home of multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur Michael McCue in an upscale suburban corner of Palo Alto didn't go quite as planned when protesters showed up and made a ruckus, despite the White House's determined attempts to keep the location of the fundraiser secret.
At first the tree-lined street outside the fundraiser was calm and cheerful. Even Mike McCue himself (waving, in the white shirt) came outside to chat with the attendees standing in line to be cleared for entry by the Secret Service.
Millionaires sweltering in the hot sun, waiting to be patted down and searched by men in military uniforms; welcome to the 21st century. They must have appreciated the pep talk from their host.
No one there (except me) yet knew that a raucous protest was about to break out. For the moment, everything was calm.
Soon Mike even came over to where I was and started chatting with the neighbors, most of whom he seemed to be meeting for the first time. We exchanged pleasantries before asking him how one goes about becoming the host for a presidential fundraiser. He acted like it was a breeze, not much more difficult than picking up the phone and making a few calls and letting nature take its course. I guess it helps to be a fabulously wealthy tech entrepreneur and dot-com jillionaire.
But Mike was, in all honesty, a very friendly guy, though perhaps a bit in need of orthodontia. He noticed that one of his neighbors had set up a very cutesy all-American lemonade stand, the proceeds from which would all be donated to "support USA" (i.e., the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee).
He praised the "little entrepreneur" staffing the booth and even forked over the suggested $5 (!!!) for a tiny cup of lemonade, which (despite the misleading marketing gimmick of fresh lemons displayed in a basket) was actually just Minute Maid's "Simply Lemonade" brand (see bottle at lower left) masquerading as home-squeezed.
"This is the best $5 sip of Coca-Cola subsidiary store-bought lemonade I've ever tasted!" he said (or something to that effect) to the local moms, who were still trying to grill him about Obama.
This being suburbia, the neighborhood toddlers gathered 'round and waved little American flags.
Now, if you're locked into believing certain stereotypes about American political categories and class divisions and regional allegiances, you might be confused about all this. Are McCue's neighbors and fundraiser attendees all rich elitist lily-white patriotic capitalist 1%ers — or are they hippy-dippy socialism-sympathizing liberal California Obama-worshippers? Ah, but you see, this is Palo Alto, where the answer is: Both.
Let me explain.
I took a stroll around the neighborhood to help me understand the vibe of the place. The Crescent Park area of Palo Alto is the kind of neighborhood where the smallest fixer-uppers sell for $3 million and the average resident drives a Maserati or a BMW.
Where Perfectly American Kids and Perfectly American Dogs wear perfectly cute little American flag hats while waiting to cheer the motorcade of an anti-American politician...
...while the paperboy delivers copies of Wealth magazine to people's front lawns.
Where rows of brown-skinned valets patiently wait to park your car for you...
...that car being a BMW with "Wage Peace" and "Obama" bumpers stickers.
Where fabulously wealthy Stanford patrons will happily endure a body-search by the Bomb Squad for the rarified privilege of breathing the same air as Obama for one blissful hour.
And afterward buy a few souvenirs from the local button-peddler who showed up to sell...
...Che Guevara, Frida Kahlo (with her hammer-and-sickle) and Bradley Manning buttons to the Obama supporters.
Does that clear things up for you? Or is your head just spinning?
Yes, Palo Alto is one of those few places in America densely populated by the kind of citizens that don't fit in to the traditional political framework: Rich radicals. These are not your hardcore Berkeley ideologues nor your violent Oakland revolutionaries nor even your smug San Francisco ironic hipsters. Nor are they top-hat wearing high society cigar-smoking paleo-Republicans. No, these are postmodern hypocritical millionaires motivated by a desire to not feel guilty about living their lives of luxury. And the easiest way to assuage that guilt is Vote and Donate Obama.
These people are not supposed to exist according to any standard model of the American landscape, but in fact they are Obama's core constituency and what they lack in demographic heft they more than make up for in campaign contributions.
And then at that moment the whole atmosphere changed. Neighbors heard a distant fracas and turned their heads to see the vanguard scouting party of the Keystone Kops, looking a little bit confused as they tried to locate the site of Obama's fundraiser. Found it!
Out came the iPhones and a few calls later the dam broke as a torrent of anti-Keystone protesters swarmed toward poor Mike McCue's house ("poor" in the sense of "unfortunate," obviously).
The onslaught surged forward toward their destination...
...but were stopped dead in their tracks by a riot line of Palo Alto cops and Homeland Security-type dudes.
And so we had no choice but to settle in for a long afternoon of old-school protesting, which generally means milling around posing for the media and trying to stave off nagging feelings of frustration and irrelevance.
I pretty much deconstructed the entire anti-Keystone protest movement that last time these guys showed up to protest Obama, and I have little to add to that analysis, so go read my previous report if you want to find out what the main phalanx of protesters was protesting and why.
Here are some of their painfully awful chants, for your entertainment (much easier on the ears to read as text than to actually have to hear them enunciated). Really, how clever was it to rhyme "homes" with (brace yourself) "home"?
Stand up for the water
Stand up for the homes
Take your pipeline home
Of much greater interest to me are the freelance and small-group protesters who showed up as well. As noted in a teaser post I made a few hours ago about this protest, most intriguing was a handful of protesters focused on a story that had only broken a few hours earlier — the domestic surveillance scandal (which is already merging with the earlier journalist-harassing scandal and IRS scandal to become a sort of "Big Government is the Enemy of the People" meta-scandal). “Obama — Stop Spying on Americans!” pretty much sums it up perfectly.
Another sign the group had read “Obama Ignores U.S. Constitution — Targets U.S. citizens for DEATH — Spies on Americans — Wages Unauthorized Wars.”
And who was this bold group willing to protest where other faux-protest groups (like the anti-Keystone Klowns) fear to tread? Why, it was (really brace yourself this time) CODE PINK! (Or at least people affiliated with CODE PINK.)
Yes, CODE PINK and the Tea Party, once mortal enemies, are now protesting against the same thing (government surveillance of citizens). It takes a special kind of president to bring together Americans from all sides of the political spectrum . . . in opposition to his policies.
June 6 just happened to also be "Solidarity with the Turkish Uprising Day"...
...and so there were several protesters on-hand showing their support for the embattled rioters in Istanbul.
California condors (the largest bird in North America) had their defenders as well.
Returning to our earlier theme of people who by their very existence violate our socio-political stereotypes...Progressives will tell you that Christians are repulsive, bitter and obese small-minded sexless rednecks...while conservatives often like to note how leftists grow into ugly spiteful harridans due to having souls full of hate...and yet here was a protester from "The Christian Left" (!?!?) who was neither ugly nor sexless.
Stop challenging our stereotypes so beguilingly!
Fulfilling their role as a virtual cold shower, the ever-repulsive Raging Grannies broke into song.
This sign gave me an idea of how we can bridge the gap between the progressives and the Tea Party: How about we impose a big "carbon tax" to replace the income tax, which could then be abolished? A two-fer! Everyone's happy.
The KKK (Keystone Kalamity Knockers) put together an unwieldy but visually effective full-size pipeline mockup and paraded it through the crowd.
Needless to say, the TV camera crews followed them around; the media always dutifully nibbles at the protesters' lens-bait.
Meanwhile, this more modest home-spun faux-pipeline was going unphotographed, so I took pity on it.
Final word goes to an unapologetic Obama-basher.
And remember our cutesy entrepreneurial lemonade stand? Well, just as the anti-carbon progressives try to crush the overall American economy underfoot, on a smaller but poignantly symbolic scale, Palo Alto's anti-carbon protesters essentially put the lemonade stand out of business as the crowds drove away all the customers by making the retail environment business-unfriendly. Is this our future in miniature?
Earlier, while I was chatting with the neighbors, one of them said that she knew someone who shared a backyard fence with the McCues, and that she was going to see if he could surreptitiously record Obama's speech to the fundraiser. I expressed skepticism that this would even be possible, due to tight security — but lo and behold, they managed to pull it off. Here's a secretly recorded two-part video of Obama's speech recorded through the McCues' back fence (he's not very visible, but the audio is clear enough):
[youtube width="640" height="360"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WY_xBh2HEA#![/youtube]
Pretty trite, actually, and obviously a scripted speech.
Stung by criticism that he had once again swooped over Northern California to drain it of cash without so much as making even one on-the-record speech (much less holding a public event), Obama hastily scheduled a press conference this morning in San Jose . . . where the big take-away news is that his handlers forgot to place a pre-printed speech in front of him, and without a teleprompter or notes, Obama was essentially tongue-tied and unable to speak extemporaneously:
Now that's eloquence!