As President Barack Obama helped Democrats bank millions in campaign cash on Tuesday, he acknowledged his administration is confronting “some big overseas challenges” in the Middle East, Ukraine and elsewhere.
Speaking at a fundraiser in a wealthy enclave of Seattle, Obama said there is a sense among Americans “that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles.”
Overseas, Israel continues its ground invasion of Gaza and investigators continue to probe the downing of a Malaysia Air jetliner over Ukraine. Some Republicans and pundits have chastised Obama for maintaining his three-day fundraising swing on the West Coast, though his aides argue the President can do his job from anywhere.
Before he left for Seattle on Tuesday, Obama signed a condolence book at the Dutch embassy in Washington, and he phoned Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on his flight west. Even when he landed, global flash points weren’t out of sight – dozens of protesters greeted him at his first fundraiser, chanting “Free Palestine” and “It’s time for Israel to pay for its crimes.”
Over the weekend, Republicans were harshly critical of Obama for keeping up his schedule of fundraisers for Democrats, which will pull in millions of dollars over three days.
Based on descriptions of Obama’s fundraisers from Democratic officials, Obama could raise north of $6 million during the trip. That figure is based on estimates of attendance at Obama’s six fundraisers, using the highest in a range of possible ticket prices.
Republicans said it sends the wrong message for the President to be engaged in starkly political activities during times of crisis, pointing back to instances in the past when Obama has raised money for Democrats while domestic and foreign crises unfolded.
Obama first learned of the Malaysia Air crash during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the White House Thursday, deciding afterward to stick to his pre-planned schedule that including the fundraising events in New York.
White House officials maintain it was the right decision for Obama to stick to his plans that day, which also included a stop for hamburgers in Delaware.
Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, said Tuesday Obama would return to Washington “if it becomes clear that there is something that the President is not able to do from the road that is critical to advancing American interests.”
But he said Obama could accomplish nearly everything he would otherwise do at the White House on the road.
“He’s got his own airplane. He’s got dedicated phone lines. He has senior advisers who will be accompanying him every step of the way to make sure that he has access to the information and technology necessary to represent American interests in the midst of these challenging international times,” Earnest said.
The White House did nix an appearance on ABC’s late night show “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” saying the timing wasn’t right.
Obama will raise money for the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and two super PACs dedicated to electing Democrats to Congress during his stops in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles he’ll pass the hat at the home of “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes.
In Seattle, residents said they’re more concerned about the wildfires raging in the interior of Washington state than the crisis in Gaza or the plane crash in Ukraine. Fueled by a dry, hot summer, fires are spanning almost 250,000 acres and driving hundreds of people from their homes.
Obama was briefed on the situation Tuesday by Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, who rode in Obama’s motorcade for the 20-minute drive from the airport to Obama’s first fundraiser.
The president also made a call to the family of a retired state trooper, who died of an apparent heart attack trying to save his home from the fire.