From Sunlen Miller:
In the first of two fundraisers this evening, President Obama appeared at a $34,000-per-couple fundraiser at Mandarin Oriental in New York City for the Democratic National Committee.
The president had a tough message for Wall Street tonight on the administration’s financial reform effort.
“We should never again have to face potential calamity because of the reckless speculation and deceptive practices and short-sightedness and self-interestedness from a few,” the president said. "So if there are members of the financial industry in the audience today, I will ask that you join with us in passing what are necessary reforms — don’t fight them, join us on it.“
The president said in the long run the administration’s financial reform will help the financial industry because it will create a level playing field in which everybody knows that the rules will be enforced — and that competition will be spurred not from how best to avoid rules but from the best innovative products.
"When I hear some folks who have just been taking taxpayer bailout money suddenly say 'what, what, what do you want from me?' When I hear stories about small businesses and medium-sized businesses not being able to get loans, despite Wall Street being backed very properly, that tells me that people aren't thinking about their obligations, our mutual obligations to each other and the fact that we're in this together."
The president, in front of a room of about 160 Democrats, also had some tough love for his party on health care — amid some intra-party fighting over the way forward with reform.
“I want all the Democrats who are in the house to understand what a profound potential achievement this is and stay focused on the goal line. Now sometimes we like to have our little intramural battles that’s fine, the American people desperately need this. “
And the president had a message as well to all other “non Democrats” as well.
“I want all non-Democrats who may be here or may be watching to know that I believe in a strong and loyal opposition. I believe in a two-party system where ideas are tested and assumptions are challenged. That’s how we strengthen our proposal. That’s how a democracy works but what I reject — what I don’t have a lot of sympathy for is folks who are just sitting on the sidelines and rooting for failure.”
Noting the support of some Republicans who are currently out of government positions, the president said other Republicans should follow their lead.
“You’ve got a whole bunch of Republicans who are saying ‘yeah, we should do this,’ except those are all retired Republicans — Bob Dole and Bill Frist — and last time I checked they are not socialist. And they think it’s important to get this done. That’s a model for what everyone needs to be thinking.”
The president said that there are still details and disagreements to get ironed out on Capitol Hill — but noted that the merging progress has begun between the five bills.
“They are now starting to be narrowed, there are negotiations taking place. We’ve got people who are engaging even if they don’t want to engage because they realize it’s not a matter of what, it’s a matter of when. All the bills passed that have been passed, despite the various differences, all of them would provide help to millions of people who don’t have coverage.”
The president noted that many in the room had helped him during the campaign — but now is different — when the work is far from over, as the country faces enormous challenges in every facet.
“Lately there has been some discussion, ‘you know, whats taking him so long, you know, it’s been nine months, he haven’t solved word hunger yet,’ and I try to explain to people, you know, part of what was remarkable about the campaign that we ran was it wasn’t easy. That’s how we knew it was worth it. “
The president said the hard work started when he won office.
“I now you guys didn’t sign up for this election because it was a sure thing and you didn’t sign up because you thought that somehow all the fun stuff in the election would just keep on continuing into governing. You know the poster was nice. You know we had the ‘yes we can,’ nice slogans. But that’s not why you did this. You did this because you understood we were at a crossroads in our history.”
As the president started his remarks, he joked that he got more requests for pictures with his daughters than for him among audience members.
“You can’t afford a fundraiser involving Malia and Sasha. I just want you to know. I’m cheap. You guys can afford me.”
The DNC expects to raise $3 million tonight in a pair of duel fundraisers the president will attend.
– Sunlen Miller