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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pool Report: President Obama does Disney, the Apollo Theatre, and Spike Lee's Joint

President Obama had quite a busy day today, first spoke at Disneyland's Magic Kingdom where he unveiled a strategy that will significantly help boost tourism and travel.

Here are a few colorful reports on the day from White House pool reporters who have been traveling along with the president, courtesy of NY Times reporter, Jackie Calmes.

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Orlando/Disney Magic Kingdom pool report:     

The pool entered the Magic Kingdom looking like we’ve only dreamed of – empty of people for the most part.


At 12:40 p.m. POTUS took the stage in the middle of the kingdom’s faux late 19th-century Main Street, against a backdrop of Cinderella’s blue-spired castle and a cloudless blue sky on a gorgeous day. He opened with a couple of jokes for the audience of about 150 people seated in front of him, and scores more, many of whom looked to be Disney employees, lining the faux storefronts. (After he spoke, one of those seated in front said she and some others were members of several unions, and attendees included local politicians.)

POTUS said it was rare for him to do something that would make his daughters jealous. And while Mickey Mouse was nowhere to be seen (except, of course, stuffed and for sale) POTUS said he looked forward to meeting him, adding, “It’s always nice to meet a world leader who has bigger ears than me.” Much laughter at that.

He outlined the tourist and travel initiatives he was implementing by executive order, saying the goal is to keep trying to make the country “the top tourist destination in the world” and to signal “America is open for business.”

You can watch the video here.

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 New York pool report: Spike Lee's Joint (his home) for a DNC fundraiser event.

President Obama sings an Al Green song at DNC fundraiser event.
 At about 8 pm the pool was ushered through the foyer and a corridor of Spike Lee's Upper East Side home and into a small dining room with 5 tables of 10 seats each as the director's wife, writer Tonya Lewis Lee, was introducing POTUS. She noted that Spike's hosting the fundraiser might seem odd to some since he has been critical of POTUS on occasion. But, she added, "I'm sure he doesn't like all of Spike's movies." (Laughter, including from Lee).  POTUS would recall, Lee also hosted an event at his Martha's Vineyard home during a presidential vacation there.

Lee's wife called for "another four years" and to warm applause. POTUS took the mic. He said Spike Lee has long been special to him because, as he previously recalled at the MV event, "on my first official date with Michelle" he took her to see "Do The Right Thing".

 "I was showing my sophistication" by taking her to a movie by a hot new director", said the president.

"Good thing you didn't choose 'Driving Miss Daisy,'" Spike Lee interjected, cracking himself up.

POTUS hit the same points as at the prior two fundraisers .

"We're obviously at a historic moment but this is also a moment of great promise " 22 months of private-sector job growth, ending war in Iraq, transitioning out of Afghanistan, health care insurance, don't ask, don't tell, laying the foundation to address problems that have been building for decades.  We need to make the tax code fair and equitable and the financial system stable.

"Everybody in this room is going to be doing fine.Couldn't be more proud of the record so far but "we've got a lot more work to do."

As at the previous fundraiser, he teased about whether folks might want to wander off to watch the GOP debate, and again the donors laughed at the thought. Again, "I'm absolutely confident we're going to win this thing. I have extraordinary faith in the American people. We can't take it for granted; there are a lot of headwinds" with the economy still in tough shape.

He should be "rightly held accountable." As much as he likes this elegant setting, he said, "We're also going to have to hit the streets," to which Spike Lee nodded his head in agreement.

POTUS promised: "I will work even harder this year than I did in 2008." As usual, pool was ushered out when he opened it up to questions. Among the donors are singer Mariah Carey and husband Nick Cannon and retired NY Knicks guard Allan Houston. Lee's walls are crowded with iconic photos of African-Americans through history, including Mohammad Ali and Malcolm X, art with African or African-American themes and artifacts including a clapper board from Godfather I.

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Before speaking at Spike Lee's home, the president spoke at the famously, historic Apollo Theatre where he broke into a rendition of Al Green's Let's Stay Together.  Green opened up the event, performing with India.Arie.   Here's a snippet of the president singing. 

“I told you I was going to do it", he said.

POTUS goes through his usual list of achievements, but this larger and more diverse audience (1,400 was the advance estimate, with tickets at $100 and $200) interrupts with enthusiastic applause and shouts, unlike the relatively more sedate high-dollar donors at the night’s earlier functions. 

With one hand in a pocket and leaning the other arm onto the podium, POTUS, as he often does, invoked Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that his priority is to make POTUS a one-term president. “My top priority is putting people back to work,” he said to applause, and educating kids, making sure everyone has affordable health care.

 As previously at fundraisers, he noted how much farther right Republicans have moved since his first election campaign -- when his Republican rival “was not a climate-change denier,” favored broad immigration reform, opposed torture. ­­­Long pause. “The contrast this year could not be sharper,” he added.

The biggest burst of applause to that point came when he said that it is important for “those who are most fortunate to pay their fair share.” He disdainfully noted that Republicans call such statements “cla­­­­­­­­­­­ss warfare” but added, “I should pay more taxes and folks in my income bracket should pay more taxes” – not because he simply wants to take the money but “because we’ve got basic investments” to cover.

He summarized the Republican agenda as give more tax cuts for the rich and let companies do whatever they want even if it hurts people. “We tried that. I don’t know if you remember, but we tried that. It never worked.”
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Real and lasting change is hard, he said, adding, “It’s hard. It takes time. It takes more than a single term. It takes more than a single president.” But change comes, he added. “I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it.”

“Yes my hair is grayer. Yes, we’ve got some dings and some dents.” And yes, the financial crisis has taken a long time to recover from. But, he said, getting louder and building to his finale, “There is no other country that doesn’t envy our position. They understand that this country is still that last best hope and they are counting, the world is counting, and our fellow citizens are counting on our not giving up, not giving in to despair.”

He said if his supporters want to end the game-playing, cynicism and soundbites in Washington, you’ve got to send a message “that you intend to keep hoping and keep pushing and keep fighting just as hard as you did four years ago. And “if you’re going to work just as hard, if you’re able to generate that same passion and commitment, then I’ll there next to you.”

“I am just as determined now as I was then,” he said, “and if you are willing to stand alongside of me…” At this point, people had begun rising to their feet, clapping and shouting so loudly that pool, sitting in the rear row, could no longer see or hear POTUS except to catch the line, “Change will come…”

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