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Obama talks economy, dishes red meat

August 17, 2010

President Obama visited Seattle today, speaking to a packed ballroom at the Westin Seattle.  The appearance was billed as the Murray Victory Luncheon with President Barack Obama, a fundraiser for Patty Murray’s senate campaign.  Security was tight; much tighter than when Vice President Joe Biden visited several months ago.  The line to register and pass through security stretched down the escalator, out the door and around the block.  With the mercury pushing 90 degrees, it was a bad day to wear a suit.    

You’ll often hear events like these described as “$500 a plate fundraisers,” implying perhaps that they are gatherings for fat cats rich enough to regularly drop $500 for lunch.  But the attendees weren’t all millionaires.  At my table was a young real estate agent, an unemployed office worker and a small business owner, among others, united more by their support of Patty Murray than by their tax bracket.  And I can say with certainty that no one was there for the food.  Lunch today consisted of cold shrimp, rubbery chicken and garnish masquerading as salad.  I’m a carnivore but I opted for the vegetarian plate, partly for safety reasons.  The President wisely stopped for a turkey sandwich at Grand Central Bakery in Pioneer Square before making his way to the Westin.    

President Obama shaking hands at the Seattle Westin, flanked by Secret Service agents. Presidential "body man" Reggie Love can be seen behind Obama's right ear.

There were a number of light moments, like when Congressman Jay Inslee facetiously announced his intention to introduce a “three strikes” bill in the U.S. House of Representatives directed at Senator Murray’s likely Republican opponent, Dino Rossi.  Of course, he was referring to Mr. Rossi’s failed runs for governor in 2004, again in 2008, and now his current Senate candidacy.    

Following a short Murray campaign video, Governor Chris Gregoire appeared on stage without introduction, garnering whoops and cheers once people realized she was standing there.  She offered testimony of Senator Murray’s work ethic and single-minded focus on the issues important to Washington State.  Having run against Dino Rossi twice, Ms. Gregoire expressed that she identifies with Senator Murray’s current situation and offered her conviction that things will work out in the end.    

After the Governor concluded her remarks, Suzi LeVine went on stage, delivering a brief but enthusiastic pitch to donate money on behalf of Democratic candidates.  Suzi is my neighbor, an ultra-smart person, and a full-time activist for Democratic causes and early childhood development.    

Not wanting to presume the outcome of today’s primary election, Patty Murray never mentioned Dino Rossi by name.  Instead, Patty’s speech focused on the principles that drive her work in the Senate.  When the press pool and White House photographer Pete Souza appeared below the stage, it was clear the President was in the building and Patty wasted no time introducing him.    

President Obama’s policy remarks focused mainly on the economy, noting that, while the economy is in serious shape, job growth is positive now after severe job losses in the waning months of the previous administration.  He said he didn’t intend to re-litigate the past but he was determined not to repeat it.    

The President also displayed his skills as Comedian in Chief, comparing the economy to a car that has been driven into a ditch.  He described his efforts over the last 18 months, working with congress to push that car out of the ditch.  Mr. Obama then described his Republican colleagues standing on the sidelines, “drinking a Slurpee,” complaining that he’s not pushing fast enough.  The President’s Slurpee-drinking pantomime was priceless, by the way.  “Now that the car is on level ground, those guys are demanding the keys back.”  According to the President, “When you want a car to move forward, you shift into D, not R.”

Update:  The New York Times just published a fun article on President Obama’s Slurpee comment, along with more accurate quotes.  Sorry, I’m writing from memory; the professional journalists at the Times use a recorder.

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