President Obama raised over $2 million for his reelection campaign last night in two small fundraisers in Manhattan. The first event was a private closed-door reception with 15 fat cats at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Manhattan, hosted by Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Paris-based Danone S.A.'s Stonyfield Farm Inc. Then it was on to Harvey Weinstein's five story townhouse in the West Village, where many streets were barricaded by police on both ends. CBS 2 reports that the media was excluded from that dinner, which was attended by Governor Cuomo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jimmy Fallon, Anna Wintour, and musician Pharrell Williams. But one pool reporter was permitted to attend and take notes; here's an account of the backslapping:
Harvey Weinstein and Obama descended a flight of stairs into the basement Weinstein's 5-story townhouse on Bank Street. Standing in the long, rectangular room, with Gwenyth Platrow sitting nearby, Weinstein introduced Obama. (I'm told Obama's remarks are being transcribed and will be distributed shortly.)
Here's what Weinstein said: "I've been trying to persuade my wife for three years to have a house-warming party. Thank you Mr. President. That's what it took. I also want to thank Anna Wintour, our co-host tonight. It's been incredible to bump into the Vogue staff at two o'clock in the morning, making sure that my tie is on correctly, that my shirts are clean and that I'm perfectly scrubbed up to meet the president... I'm lucky enough, and he knows it's true, to say that I was one of Governor Cuomo's earliest supporters."
Cuomo, from his seat at a table in the back of the small room, said, "Yes, yes. Angel investor." [applauds] Weinstein, directing his comment to Cuomo, replied: "You are an angel." Obama, standing next to Weinstein, told the crowd, "That's the first time anybody's ever called him that." The room burst into laughter. Weinstein continued his introduction.
Weinstein: "So, as a New Yorker, I want to thank the governor for doing an amazing job through all the incredible initiatives, the gay marriage, the economy, all the great work that he's done. [applauds] And last year the president was in Martha's Vineyard, He asked me if I had a movie for him, and he saw a rough cut, first cut, of a movie called "The King's Speech." Obama: "It was pretty good." [The crowd laughed]
Weinstein: "We worked out a free-trade thing. I'm sending him a movie and it wins the Oscar. So, this year, I'm sending him Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, which is also [inaudible]…as a kid who grew up in subsidized housing in Queens and still have the apartment where my mom brought us up, I just wanted to say, from the heart, that, you know, in this country, too often I think a lot of us look to the president for all the answers.
This is one of our great men and a great president but i think we have to start looking at ourselves to help the country and start taking on our own initiatives and to be supportive and to do the things that we used to do in this country. I think the media has been divisive. As part of the media, I can say that that's what I think has instigated this. I'm proud to serve my country. I'm proud to be with you Mr. President. It's an honor to have you in my house. [applauds] Obama: "I must say, this is a pretty good looking crowd." [The crowd laughed]
Not laughing, it seems, are New York State voters, who disapprove 49 - 45 percent of the job President Obama is doing, a huge drop from his 57 - 38 percent approval in June, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. This is the first time Obama has ever had a negative score in New York. "The debt ceiling hullaballoo devastated President Barack Obama's numbers even in true blue New York," says Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "He just misses that magic 50 percent mark against a no-name Republican challenger."
But in his remarks at Weinstein's house, Obama signaled that he read last Sunday's scathing NY Times op-ed, written by psychologist and professor Drew Westen. The takedown referenced Obama's repeated use of the Martin Luther King quote about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. (Westen wrote, "The arc of history does not bend toward justice through capitulation cast as compromise.") Last night, Obama seemed to acknowledge the criticism, telling the celebs, "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. But it doesn’t bend on its own… it takes time, and it is hard work and it has its frustrations.”
And here's an amusing video taken by two West Village residents who got yelled at by police for videotaping Obama's motorcade from an open apartment window. Gotta love the commentary: