President Obama flew into LAX about 4:45 on Wednesday afternoon, exchanged tarmac pleasantries with Mayor Eric Garcetti and students from a UCLA class taught by Kal Penn, then helicoptered over to the Cheviot Hills Recreation Center before ever venturing out into LA drive-time traffic. But by then, drivers were fuming about delays crossing the Westside, especially around Rancho Park, Century City and the Holmby Hills and Bel Air areas. The presidential motorcade left the park just after 5:15 p.m. and sped up Beverly Glen Boulevard to deliver Obama to the Bel Air home of Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and his wife Cindy. A Democratic campaign fundraiser attended by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Barbra Streisand and Jeffrey Katzenberg was held under a tent, with some of the high rollers hunkered under blankets on the cool evening. "I know we've got some folks in blankets here," Obama quipped. "But for a Chicagoan, it feels pretty good. It's pretty balmy."
The entourage bailed about 7:30 for the Hyatt Regency Century City, where Obama spoke and received an award from the USC Shoah Foundation. Bruce Springsteen performed “Dancing in the Dark” and “The Promised Land,” and Steven Spielberg spoke. Emcee Conan O'Brien got in some comedic jabs about the reason many Angelenos dread Obama's frequent visits to tap Hollywood types for campaign checks.
“As a resident of Los Angeles, I'm furious about what you do to traffic when you visit this city," O'Brien said in the local pool report, provided by the LA Times' Maeve Reston. "What the hell? I know you left Washington six hours ago, but I left Burbank seven hours ago.”
There are two things that make traffic shut down in this town—a visit from the President and a light drizzle. Now I mean this with the greatest respect, Sir, but do you have to physically come here? We love you. This town loves you. You’ve got our vote. You’re good.
Audience, what do you say to – next time we give President Obama a Los Angeles award, we mail it to him? And then we fly down the 405.
On the more serious side, Obama spoke about the Shoah Foundation's work to document the lives of Holocaust survivors.
“The testimonies of survivors like those with us tonight also remind us that the purpose of memory is not simply to preserve the past, it is to protect the future,” Obama said. “The voices of those recorded and unrecorded, those who survived and those who perished, call upon us, implore us, and challenge us to turn ‘never forget’ into ‘never again.’
“We only need to look at today’s headlines – the devastation of Syria, the murders and kidnappings in Nigeria, the sectarian conflict, the tribal conflicts, to see that we have not yet extinguished man’s darkest impulses…."
Earlier at LAX, Obama crossed the tarmac to meet each student in a UCLA class taught by former White House aide Kal Penn, "Hope, Change, and Fist Bumps: Young Americans and The Obama Presidency." The president and the students compared notes on Penn, shook hands and took a group picture. "Coming into the class I expected it to be a learning experience," political science major Jazmin Samano said. "But now I'll have an experience to remember for the rest of my life."
Obama had settled into his hotel by ten minutes after ten, per the pool report. He will appear at another political fundraiser in the morning, at the Beverly Hilton, before heading back to LAX. The area between Century City and Beverly Hills would be a good place to avoid at midmorning.