The Obama Watch

A Bad Case of the Bitters

Obama reveals his heart in San Francisco.

By 5.27.10

With oil from the still-gushing, five-week-old Deepwater Horizon leak lapping unimpeded into the marshes of Louisiana, on Tuesday the President of the United States jetted past the oily Gulf to a San Francisco fund-raiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer, held, incredibly, at the home of the 350th richest person in America -- Gordon Getty, inheritor of the Getty Oil fortune. Hollywood satirists couldn't make this stuff up.

If nothing else, Barack Obama has his priorities. This was the president's second trip to California to raise money for Sen. Boxer in two months. His first was the day before the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Then, he went to Los Angeles and held three fund-raisers that collected more than $3 million for Boxer and the DNC. His Tuesday haul, 35 days after the start of the as yet uncontained leak, was a reported $1.7 million for Boxer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Extinguishing emergencies is not this president's strong suit, but he is one fine raiser of cash.

Understandably, California is where the president goes to raise money for Democrats. Compared to the rest of America, it is a hotbed of vibrating passion for the Party of Big Government. (It also is on the verge of bankruptcy, but never mind.) In the last four years, Democratic registrations in California have risen from 42.7 percent of registered voters to 44.6 percent, while Republican registrations have fallen from 34.6 to 30.8. The especially friendly territory, though, is San Francisco, where this president retreats when it's time to vent about those retrograde elements elsewhere in this country too backward and ignorant to support his far-sighted agenda.

The median household income in San Francisco is $72,000 -- a mere $20,000 higher than the national average. Twenty-eight percent of San Franciscans age 25 or older have a bachelor's degree, compared to 17 percent of Americans, and 16 percent have a post-graduate degree, compared to 10 percent of Americans. More than a quarter (27 percent) of all registered Democrats in California live in or around San Francisco, which hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1964. If you want to mock the philistines of middle America, this is the place to do it.

On Tuesday, the president did just that, in his own, unique "what fools these mortals be" kind of way. Speaking to the adoring crowd of donors, the president mocked the mouth-breathers of the hinterlands, saying, "There are members of their base who think if somebody even smiles at me, they think, 'You're a traitor. You smiled at Obama.'"

I would venture to say that exactly no one in America thinks that. But it is a tasty morsel to toss to the Super-Rich Elitists Club of the Greater Bay Area. How many of them have ever met a Republican, after all? They probably gather at Masa's and regale each other with stories of the time they saw some demented, poorly attired plebian hop the streetcar with a copy of Sarah Palin's book protruding offensively from her cheap handbag.

It is no mystery why the president chooses to belittle his opposition from the enlightened hills of the city by the bay. The ideals that motivate average Americans to resist the president's Great Remaking of American society -- independence, self-reliance, individual liberty -- are as foreign there as alien death rays. In San Francisco, he can let his guard down. They are his people.

Remember, it was in San Francisco -- at a fund-raiser -- that candidate Obama said, "they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

He wasn't speaking of the locals who shop at Fillmore Street. He was talking about hick Pennsylvanians, safely out of sight 2,800 miles away.

When the president tells San Franciscans, as he did on Tuesday, that he just can't work with Republicans because they are so intent on irrationally blocking his agenda, how are they to know any better? What context do they have? Who do they know who disagrees with the president on anything save the speed with which he has chosen to disassemble "don't ask don't tell"? How many of their friends listen to Rush Limbaugh, read the Wall Street Journal editorial page, or have ever held a hunting rifle?

After complaining to the roomful of wealthy donors that Republicans refuse to cooperate or work with him in a bipartisan manner, Obama, apparently without any awareness of contradiction, had the crowd chanting happily back at him when he said of Republicans, "if you want to get in, we'll give you a ride. But we're not going to let you drive."

Because that is the spirit of bipartisanship on vivid display: you can sit helplessly in the back as we rocket this baby wherever our heavily Europhile sense of direction takes us, but you'd better keep your yap shut.

And although that is the attitude with which the administration governs, neither the president nor his friends can fathom why anyone would be upset with him. The philistines want to drive? Well isn't that cute. Listen, they can hold on to those Bibles and guns -- for now, anyway -- but they are NOT clinging to the steering wheel.

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About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.