Pool reports from tonight's Obama event

Here's what the pool reporters filed from Beverly Hills for the traveling national media and the locals.

Pool Report – No. 1 Sept. 16, 2008 Beverly Hills, Calif.

No News. Awaiting Remarks.

Senator Barack Obama departed the Regent Beverly Wilshire at 6:35 p.m., with his motorcade heading to the Greystone Estate for a fund-raising reception and dinner. He arrived at 6:50 p.m.

The Greystone, a 55-room, Tudor-style mansion, sits atop a hill on 16 acres along Doheny Road in Beverly Hills. It is a popular site for shooting film and television scenes, with a winding driveway offering an expansive view of Los Angeles.

Mr. Obama went into the mansion upon his arrival. (Your pool bus chugged through a back alley, where the wait staff could be seen preparing the meal.) For dinner? Salad with goat cheese, roasted potatoes, filet of beef and asparagus. And dessert? Apple crisp and chocolate lava cake.

Jen Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman, said 250 to 300 people registered for the dinner, with individual contributions of $28,500 directed to the Obama Victory Fund. The campaign does not disclose how much money is collected at fundraisers, she said, because the tally is not immediately known.

As dusk turned into darkness, Mr. Obama could be seen in the distance posing for individual photographs for about an hour. A line of contributors formed against an outdoor wall, with a single American flag providing a backdrop that was awash in lights.

Meanwhile, guests milled around on an outdoor terrace, largely out of view of your pool. Among those who could be spotted: Jamie Lee Curtis, Toby McGuire and Chris Rock.

It is 7:50 p.m. and no remarks yet from the senator. He is scheduled to speak here before going to the second fund-raiser of the evening.

More as it happens.

Jeff Zeleny
New York Times

Report #2, describing the celebrity scene at Greystone Mansion and quoting from Obaba's remarks:


Senator Barack Obama spoke for about 15 minutes in an outdoor courtyard, a well-lit setting inside the sprawling compound of the Greystone Mansion. A few stars were shining above in the nighttime sky, as well as an audience filled with them.

He made his remarks from a stage in the corner, bathed in lights, holding a microphone in his hand as he looked out into the crowd. He said the campaign provided a sobering look at the country’s economic condition.

“It's reminded people that this is not a game. This is not a reality show, no offense to any of you,” Mr. Obama said to laughter. “This is not a sitcom.”

Among the celebrities who could be seen by your pool, which was stationed at the rear of the courtyard: Will Farrell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jodi Foster. And Dennis Haysbert, who played the president on the TV series “24.”

There were at least 300 people, seated at 30 tables resting on cobblestone. White and red wine glasses were on the tables. Waiters, dressed in black, listened to the speech.

It was a serious speech for Mr. Obama – interrupted only once or twice by applause – as he spelled out the stakes of the campaign. He also talked about jittery Democrats, the reason for running and his opponents’ strategy against him.

“I know that a lot of you, just in conversations while we were in the photo lines, had all sorts of suggestions,” Mr. Obama said. “I know that won't surprise you. And a lot of people have gotten nervous and concerned. Why is this as close as it is? And what's going on?"

“We always knew this was going to be hard, and this is a leap for the American people. And we're running against somebody who has a formidable biography, a compelling biography. He's a genuine American hero, somebody who served in uniform and suffered through some things that very few of us can imagine.

“And so he is a worthy opponent. And this should be hard, because what we're asking of the American people is a fundamental shift away from an economic theory that has dominated over the last eight years that says, ‘You give more to the most and hope that it trickles down for everybody else, an economic theory that basically says you're on your own if you don't have healthcare, you're on your own if you don't have a job; if you're born into poverty, lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, you are on your own.”

“If we can cut through the nonsense and the lipstick and the pigs and the silliness, then I'm absolutely convinced that we're going to win,” Mr. Obama said, speaking over laughter and applause.

He asked the Democratic contributors who gave $28,500 to the party’s effort to keep working and fighting in the days ahead, warning them of the close contest. “We’ve still got enormous work to do because of the enormous resistance out there – resistance because people have been fed cynicism for a long time,” Mr. Obama said. “When my opponent and the operation that they’ve put together starts feeding into that cynicism and starts feeding into that resentment, it’s not always clear which way things are going to tip.”

Mr. Obama said that he was “confident about winning because, ‘I've looked at John McCain, I've looked at Sarah Palin, I've looked at their agenda, and they don't have one.”

The crowd laughed. “They don't have answers to our economic problems,” he said, “and they don't have answers to our foreign policy problems.”

He urged his supporters to “keep steady” in the days ahead and never forget what his candidacy is about. In case they did, he offered a reminder, saying: the campaign “is about those who will never see the inside of a building like this and don't resent the success that's represented in this room, but just want the simple chance to be able to find a job that pays a living wage.”

The speech ended. Mr. Obama shook hands – it did not appear that he stayed for dinner, since he apologized for running late – and his motorcade returned to the hotel at 9:05 p.m.

The second event of the evening is upcoming.

Jeff Zeleny / New York Times
Michael Finnegan / Los Angeles Times

Next: Pool Report #3 from back at the hotel.

Senator Barack Obama walked onto the stage in a ballroom at the Regent Beverly Wilshire about 9:45 p.m. for a second reception of the evening. At least 800 people were on hand, aides said, with an individual contribution of $2,500 to the Obama Victory Fund.

Barbra Streisand sang, but your pool did not hear or witness it. Citing a campaign policy, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said only Mr. Obama’s remarks were open, not the music.

For about 15 minutes, Ms. Psaki said, Ms. Streisand ran through bits of songs, but did not sing entire numbers.

After thanking the entertainers, Mr. Obama struck a somber tone.

“This should be a celebratory evening, we’ve got 48 days to go in a campaign, a campaign that started 19 months ago, at a time when a lot of folks thought we might not get here,” Mr. Obama said. But, he added, “I’m not in a celebratory mood.”

He ticked through the series of crises that have taken place in recent days, including the hurricane on the gulf coast, the deadly train crash in nearby Los Angeles and the turmoil in the nation’s financial markets.

For about 18 minutes, he offered a basic version of his stump speech, reprising a few of the lines he used at the first event of the evening. He implored Democrats not to worry about his calm demeanor.

“The reason I’m calm,” Mr. Obama said, “is I have confidence in the American people.”

Spotted in the audience were Ron Howard, Sarah Silverman, Magic Johnson, Pierce Brosnan and scores of others your pool could not identify or see from our vantage point.

By the end of the speech, the energy had returned to Mr. Obama’s voice as he asked his supporters “to keep on going out there, arguing and fighting” in the final 48 days.

It’s 10:10 p.m., Mr. Obama is shaking hands in the front of the room, even though most people made a bee-line to the door.

Jeff Zeleny
New York Times

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