President Obama spent Monday evening in Fairfield County, attending fundraisers in Stamford and Westport before heading back to Washington. Here’s how the night unfolded on Twitter:
Archive for August 6th, 2012
President Barack Obama’s visit to Fairfield County Monday was a whirlwind of suits and high heels, security agents and applause. As a one-day member of the press pool, for me the experience was mainly long periods of waiting punctuated by quick trips to hear the president speak, followed by frantic writing and emailing. Here are a few things that made an impression on me, which due to time constraints may not have made it into my final stories:
- President Barack Obama began his remarks with a nod to his own graying hair — he celebrated his 51st birthday Saturday — and a shout out to the United States’ women’s Olympic soccer team, which only hours before defeated their Canadian opponents in a tough match. “It’s just an extraordinary reminder that even when we have political differences, when it comes to our love of this country and the incredible people who represent us, we’re unified,” Obama said of the Olympic Games. “It’s a very gratifying feeling during the course of a political season.”
- Obama on political campaigns: “It’s a healthy thing because that’s what our democracy is about. Sometimes it’s messy, folks get excited. But in this election in particular the reason there is such an intensity is the choice we face in November could not be bigger. It’s not just a choice between two candidates or two political parties. It’s a choice between two fundamentally different paths for our country and the direction we choose.”
- Obama on the the nation’s identity: “All these things that help make a middle class life, they all tie together. They’re all central to the idea that made this country great. If you work hard, you can get ahead. The same promise our parents and our grandparents passed down to us and now it’s our responsibility to make sure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy that great privilege.”
- I wrote in today’s story that Stamford has become a “warm up band” for high profile political fundraisers. In recent years and months both Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney have stopped in the city for large, lower-priced (but not cheap by any means!) events before motoring off to a nearby affluent town for a more exclusive — and expensive — private fundraiser. Tonight was no different – Stamford was a brief and enthusiastic cocktail reception at the Marriott Hotel & Spa during which guests stood facing the stage as if at, well, a Ben Harper concert, while the President delivered his remarks. If Stamford was a rock concert, Harvey Weinstein’s home in Westport was Carnegie Hall — very pretty, but not necessarily as loud or exciting.
- What is in Harvey Weinstein’s garage? I know this is the kind of cutting edge news reporting you are looking for and I will not disappoint. The two-car garage was designated at the press pool’s “holding area,” which allowed me plenty of time to compile a list: light bulbs, cleaning supplies, brown cardboard boxes, a dust buster, a volleyball, yellow whiffle ball bat, toolboxes, Hefty black garbage bags and a brown sled. They also left the media some beer, but I didn’t see anyone indulging.
- The seating was tight – almost cramped – in the barn-style room where the dinner was held. Guests sat at tables covered in long off-white table cloths. The centerpiece was white flowers and small white candles dotted the tables. Seating was assigned and the tables were divided between an upper and lower level separated by a couple of stairs. Actresses Anne Hathaway and Joanne Woodward were seated up top, which at first made me think the lower section was for Connecticut politicians (they stuck Gov. Dannel Malloy in the back) but then I saw Aaron Sorkin seated at the middle table on the bottom level. I couldn’t tell in the time they allowed us if President Obama had a seat, when the media was in the room he stood at the microphone near Hathaway and Weinstein.
- The White House press pool, which does this sort of thing every day, was impressed only by Anne Hathaway — who all agreed looked stunning.
Anna Burns, 19, of Fairfield (left) and Annika Heumann, 18, of Southport, camped out near movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s estate on Beachside Avenue in Westport Monday afternoon in hopes of catching a glimpse of President Barack Obama.
In November, Burns and Heumann will cast their first vote as American citizens. They said they will vote for Obama.
“He stands for a lot more than the presidency,” said Heumann, explaining her support for Obama’s reelection campaign. “He’s the first African American president, which obviously is a big deal for our country’s history.”
She added, “I think people need to realize the issues that we face are huge issues — like the economy is collapsing. It’s going to take years and years to fix and I’d like to see what Obama can do with four more years. I don’t think Romney could do any better of a job.”
About an hour before President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak at the Stamford Marriot, a group of several dozen protestors camped out across the street from the hotel shuffled through several chants and rally speeches through megaphones (including a new rendition of the Christmas carol, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” in which chanters sang out “You better wake up, before it’s too late. They’re shutting coal mines and raising tax rates – When Obama comes to your town”).
But after Obama made his way into the hotel to deliver a speech of his own to hundreds of supporters at a $500-a-head fund raiser, the cheers changed their tune: To chicken sandwiches.
Shortly after 6 p.m., as the protestors crowd thinned out a bit, the repeated chant of “Chick-Fil-A, Chick-Fil-A,” rang across Tresser Boulevard from protestors camped out on the North side of the street, a few dozen yards from the hotel.
One of the Tea Party supporters took a detour to Paramus, N.J., on the way to Stamford to pick up Chick-Fil-A sandwiches for the protest, as what Tea Party supporter Linda Dwyer called a “symbol of free speech,” in the wake of last week’s controversy over the restaurant’s CEO stating that the fast food chain supports Christian values, and is against gay marriage. The comments prompted a boycott of the sandwich shop by many Americans, followed by an organized eat-in by supporters of the chain, sparking a nationwide debate between gay rights and freedom of speech.
The President has made no official stance on the chicken sandwich fiasco. Though he is the first American president to openly support gay marriage, he doesn’t appear to have any beef with the restaurant chain.
But to protestors outside the Marriot Monday evening, the sandwiches were just another symbol for their displeasure with the flavor of the country over the last four years.
“I have this on my sign in support of business,” said Jim Manning of Rocky Hill, Conn. “For the freedom for businesses to do what they want and allow. If you don’t support a business, don’t support it. But don’t demonize them.”
Stamford resident Diane Griffin brought her children Kaylie,13, Taylor, 8 and Sean, 5 along with their friend Emily, 13, to the corner of Tresser Boulevard and Canal Street Monday afternoon for a chance to catch a glimpse at President Barack Obama and his motorcade.
“This doesn’t happen every day, and I thought it would be neat for the kids to see the President and the motorcade,” she said shortly before 5 p.m., after the group had been hanging around for about an hour.
Kaylie, who is the oldest Griffin child said she was excited for the opportunity to “see all the cars and the lights an everything.”
But when the President’s parade moved up Canal Street toward the Stamford Marriott, the line of cars ducked right into a back entrance of the hotel, leaving the Griffin’s and others who had camped out to catch a peek a little disappointed.
“I guess I’m a little bit bummed, but not really. I just wanted to see the show,” Kaylie said as she and her family took their leave.
The first of President Obama’s two fundraising stops Monday evening was at the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa.
But unlike Obama’s trip to Stamford in 2010 — when the President headlined a fundraisser for Richard Blumenthal’s Senate campaign — Marine One, the helicopter carrying the president, didn’t land in the City that Works.
Kosciuszko Park, where many assumed Marine One would land before the President’s stop in downtown Stamford, was empty at about 5 p.m. except for a few people fishing and a couple pushing around a stroller.
Several helicopters were hovering above Stamford, but there was no sign of Marine One.
That’s because rather than landing in Stamford, Marine One landed instead in Westport, before the presidential motorcade made its way southbound on I-95 to Stamford.
State police closed the southbound on-ramp at exit 8 and the northbound on-ramp at exit 6 just after 5 p.m. because of “police activity,” according to the state Department of Transportation. The entire southbound roadway was closed as the motorcade passed by.
Obama then arrived at the Stamford Marriott at 5:36 p.m., where he was scheduled to speak to between 450 and 500 people before getting back on I-95 and heading to the home of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in Westport.
While there will likely be very limited — if any — public access in the stretch of Beachside Avenue in Westport tonight
during the hours that President Obama attends a fundraising reception hosted by movie producer Harvey Weinstein at his waterfront estate, the street through the exclusive neighborhood was open most of the day beforehand.
Police are being coy about what time traffic will be detoured around the site, other than to warn of intermittent delays in the Greens Farms neighborhood prior to the president’s arrival from a Stamford fundraiser and during the event. It is expected to be a fleeting foray for Obama — an hour to 90 minutes — before he copters off from nearby Sherwood Island State Park to Air Force One waiting at JFK airport in New York.
There have been only a few passersby checking for signs of daytime preparations for the Weinstein reception, which is expected to be attended by several celebrities and business heavyweights, including actresses Anne Hathaway and Joanne Woodward. The price of admission is unsurprisingly steep: $35,800 per ticket.
Westport News reporter Paul Schott, who spent several hours staking out the outskirts of this privileged precinct this afternoon, reports the arrival of a suited retinue of men, apparently part of the security team, followed later by a catering team, but little else out of the ordinary by 4 p.m.
Perhaps the passerby who made the biggest impression, according to Schott, was a middle-aged jogger who grumbled, “F*** Obama,” as he ran past the Weinstein estate.