President Barack Obama put the Republican Party on blast – albeit humorously – at a fundraiser in San Francisco Saturday.
Taking the Warfield stage at roughly 10:30 a.m., he quickly outlined a number of his accomplishments – 13.2 million new jobs in 67 months; 17 million Americans with health insurance though Obamacare; improved foreign relations with Cuba; oil imports half what they were prior to 2008.
But, Obama noted, not everyone is impressed by what he deemed “extraordinary progress.”
“It does kind of make you wonder: Why are so many Republican politicians down on America?” he said. “Why are they so grumpy? I know its political season, but listening to them you would think that everything was terrific back in 2008 – when we were going through the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression, we were engaged in two wars, hopelessly addicted to foreign oil, Bin Laden’s at large.”
According to Republicans, “those were the good ole’ days,” Obama said, taking a stab at the GOP tagline. “Those were the golden years,” he added. ”Then I came in and messed it up.”
That said, Obama credited the GOP for its “chutzpah” and for “just saying stuff.”
“The fact-checkers can’t even keep up,” he quipped.
The Democratic National Committee invited Obama to speak at the fundraiser, which also included a performance by rapper and possible future presidential candidate Kanye West. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf kicked off the festivities with the assistance of six members of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors who were led by point guard Steph Curry and forward Draymond Green.
Obama praised the athletes as “wonderful young men,” who are doing great things for their community as well as “doing great stuff on the court.”
He also joked with the crowd about West, who at the MTV Video Music Awards in August announced that he will be running for president in 2020.
“You’re going to hear from a guy who I hear has been talking about launching a potential political career,” Obama said. “You may have heard about how Kanye is thinking about running … for Speaker of the House. It couldn’t get any stranger.”
West’s past VMAs antics is the reason the president hasn’t always been the musician’s biggest fan. In 2009, the head of state called West a “jackass” after he interrupted Taylor Swift from accepting an award for Best Female Video.
“I’ll let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!” were the infamous words West uttered after cutting Swift off. The phrase is still used as jokes in other award shows and online.
On Saturday, Obama offered advice to West just in case he is “serious about this whole POTUS thing or as he calls it, ‘Peezy.’”
First, the rapper would have to be “cool” spending time with “some strange characters who behave like they’re on a reality TV show,” Obama said. West is married to reality TV star Kim Kardashian of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” fame.
The president also referenced West’s 2010 Grammy-winning album titled “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
“Second important tip: Saying you have a beautiful, dark twisted fantasy – that’s what’s known as ‘off message’ in politics,” he said. “You can’t say something like that. A lot of people have lost their Congressional seats saying stuff like that. You don’t do that.”
“And number three: Do you really think this country is going to elect a black guy from the South Side of Chicago with a funny name to be president of the United States? That’s crazy,” Obama deadpanned.
But the president also had choice words about more serious matters – climate change being one of them.
“If 99 percent of doctors said, ‘You’ve got diabetes,’ what would you do?” Obama asked attendees.
Would people brush it off as a “hoax” or “socialist plot” or take the diagnosis seriously enough to take medication and eat differently, he mused.
“Well, with climate change, 99 percent of scientists have said if we do not do something now, then we might not be able to deal with rising oceans, we may not be able to deal with rising drought, we may not be able to adapt fast enough so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy this beautiful planet the same way we did,” Obama stressed.
But, he pointed out, the grim warnings haven’t earned a serious response from the Republican Party.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, toted a snowball into the Senate in the winter and said, “See, it’s not warming because there’s a snowball,” according to Obama.
“I’m not making this up,” he said. “It would be funny if it wasn’t this big existential problem.”
Although the Warfield theater has room for 2,300 concertgoers, roughly 1,300 people paid between $100 and $10,000 to attend Saturday’s event, according to committee members. A couple dozen protestors gathered outside the venue, with some holding up signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and others opposing tax breaks given to tech companies by San Francisco’s leaders.
But, inside, Obama’s remarks about the apparent epidemic of gun violencesweeping the United States received raucous cheers.
“We don’t have to have young boys in Oakland get shot every day,” he said. “We don’t have to have [students] in the classroom feeling threatened because somebody’s got an AK-47. We don’t need for that to happen. That’s a choice we make. We’ve got to have a different choice.”
Although Obama didn’t mention business mogul and Republic presidential candidate Donald Trump during his speech, he alluded to Trump’s divisive views on immigration and determination to erect a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“America’s greatness doesn’t come from building walls, it comes from building opportunity,” he said.
Obama also emphasized that each citizen holds the “most important office in a democracy.” He encouraged people to combat frustration with elected officials by staying informed and actively involved in local and national politics.
“When I ran for office back in 2007, some of you couldn’t pronounce my name,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Don’t just leave it to me or any politician.’ I didn’t say, ‘Yes, I can.’ I said, ‘Yes, we can.’”