President Obama’s three-day trip to the West Coast produced gaffes, strange encounters and wads of campaign cash from the Democrats’ reliable loving bosom of Hollywood.
The president promoted himself as a “warrior” for the middle class on this early campaign swing, but he raised an estimated $7 million by hobnobbing with moguls of the entertainment and high-tech industries.
Among the Hollywood VIPs who turned out for Mr. Obama at a $17,900-per-plate dinner late Monday night at the chic Fig & Olive restaurant on Melrose Place in Los Angeles was Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, whom the president praised for “helping us consistently move an agenda forward that creates a more just and fair and more competitive America.”
Other celebrities included writer Aaron Sorkin, producer Jon Landau, musicians Quincy Jones and will.i.am, and actors Jamie Foxx, Danny DeVito and Eva Longoria.
Many of the attendees at the series of intimate fundraisers were lauding the man who wants to raise their taxes, to pay for another stimulus plan and to reduce deficits. Mr. Obama warned his supporters that the 2012 campaign will be harder “because people are just tired.”
“They’re worn out,” Mr. Obama said of his base. “We’ve been driving through a storm. We had to try to keep this boat afloat through something that we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. And people are weary and hurt. And so the energy of 2008 is going to have to be generated in a different way.”
He said he intends to gain support in 2012 by portraying Republicans as a party offering “a cramped vision that says, ‘You’re on your own.’”
“The other side has a very different idea about where to take this country,” Mr. Obama said at Fig & Olive. “I urge all of you to watch some of these Republican debates. There’s a different vision about who we are and what we stand for. And I think the American people want a big, optimistic, bold, generous vision of America.”
While Mr. Obama raked in campaign cash in the traditionally liberal bastion of Hollywood, the town didn’t turn out for him in the same splashy way it did in 2007, when TV personality Oprah Winfrey hosted a star-studded party for him. Some of the Hollywood elite have yet to donate to Mr. Obama’s re-election fund, such as Barbra Streisand and George Lucas. Others, including Robert Redford, have voiced their disappointment that Mr. Obama hasn’t pushed hard enough for a progressive agenda.
One entertainment executive told the Hollywood Reporter that fundraising for the president this year has been “tough, tough, tough.” Mr. Obama reportedly raised more money, as much as $5 million, farther north at a pair of fundraisers in Silicon Valley.
And although the president did boost his campaign accounts, the trip was not without slip-ups. For example, at a fundraiser Sunday at the 27,000-square-foot home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley in Medina, Wash., Mr. Obama gushed about the beautiful setting while twice calling Mr. Shirley by the wrong name of “Mark,” before others corrected him.
At another fundraiser in Seattle, the president’s teleprompters apparently quit on him. Mr. Obama turned and gestured backstage, using his hands to mime a rolling motion, and then pressed on without the device.
And then there were the encounters with the unexpected and the bizarre. Singer Lady Gaga towered over the president in very high heels at a private party, while a heckler called Mr. Obama “the Antichrist” at the start of a fundraiser in Los Angeles.
• Dave Boyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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