After Obama’s attempt to reassure the public about the economic recovery fell flat Thursday, he jetted off to a celebrity fundraiser in Manhattan hosted by Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker — and the contrast could not have been more tone-deaf. As AP reports, Obama seemed to temporarily abandon his middle class warrior routine, telling the $40,000-a-plate dinner guests that they were the “ultimate arbiter” of the country’s future:
Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation’s future.
“You’re the tie-breaker,” he said. “You’re the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes.”
Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama’s remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests. Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent.
As a gesture of egalitarianism, there was one non-paying, no-name guest who had won a $3 Obama campaign raffle and was able to attend the fundraiser as a “prize” (how benevolent of the campaign).
The celebrity hostesses also reportedly promoted the Obama campaign’s Runway to Win line, a collection of t-shirts and tote bags “designed” by celebrities and fashion designers and sold on Obama’s campaign site. The products are as awful as you can imagine. Would Anna Wintour ever let her skin touch this monstrosity designed by Beyonce? Or this mess (allegedly) designed by Prabal Gurung? Unlikely. But for $45-and-up, brand-obsessed Obama fans can look like they just bought a t-shirt sewn by a Chinese child laborer from the back of an unlicensed D.C. souvenir truck.
It’s hard to be too harsh on Obama about the dinner. He’s a politician, and they all have to fundraise. But this particular dinner was so ostentatious — from the guest list, to the ticket price, to the advertising campaign — that it likely grated on the public’s nerves in a way that typical fundraisers don’t. Obama’s own star power has faded significantly since 2008, and it made the dinner party seem sadder and tackier than it would have four years ago — like a middle-aged person trying just a little too hard to hold onto his youth.