Bloomberg News

Obama Says Restoring U.S. Image Abroad Was a Top Accomplishment

February 22, 2012

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama told donors in Los Angeles that improving the nation’s image abroad was one of the accomplishments he is most proud of in his first term.

He also warned them the 2012 re-election campaign will be a tougher fight than the 2008 race for the White House.

“Its not going to be easier this time; it’s going to be harder this time,” Obama said to about 1,000 supporters who were gathered last night on the grounds of the Spanish-style estate of soap opera producer Bradley Bell and his wife, Colleen. “As tough as things are, the changes we’ve made are remarkable.”

Obama cited passage of the health-care law he had campaigned on, the return home of troops from Iraq and the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay members of the armed services and enhancing the status of the U.S. in the world.

“One of the proudest things of my three years in office is helping to restore a sense of respect for America around the world, a belief that we are not just defined by the size of our military,” he said.

Obama also attended a dinner at Bell’s home, attended by George Clooney and co-hosted by fellow actor Will Ferrell, at which about 80 supporters paid $35,800 each. The events are among six for Obama yesterday and today in California. Along with fundraisers in Washington state tomorrow, Obama is seeking to raise more than $8 million for his campaign on the three-day West Coast swing.

Sharing Disappointment

Obama said he sympathized with people who were disappointed that he hadn’t done enough to fulfill some of his campaign pledges, including closing the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and ending the war in Afghanistan. “I understand that,” he said. “I feel the same way sometimes.”

Quoting former New York Governor Mario Cuomo that “campaigning is poetry, governance is prose,” Obama said, “We’ve been slogging through prose for the last three years. And sometimes that gets people discouraged because people, they like the poetry.”

The fundraisers are bracketed by speeches on the economy and the revival of U.S. manufacturing. Earlier yesterday Obama talked about companies moving jobs back to the U.S. during a visit to a Master Lock Co. factory in Milwaukee. Tomorrow, he is scheduled to stop at a Boeing Co. factory in Everett, Washington, outside of Seattle. Obama is seeking re-election with an unemployment rate that has been at or above 8 percent for three years and an economy still struggling to replace the 8.8 million jobs lost due to the recession.

Anti-Piracy Legislation

The trip to California marks the president’s first visit to the state since his administration on Jan. 14 cast doubt on Hollywood-backed anti-piracy legislation before Congress. A post on the White House website said the administration wouldn’t support measures that encourage censorship or disrupt the structure of the Internet. Days later the House and Senate shelved the legislation.

Obama may get questions from entertainment industry executives about reviving the anti-piracy measure, said Andrew Schwartzman, senior vice president of the Washington-based advocacy group Media Access Project.

Movie executives will have to “lick their wounds and accept that, if legislation is going to be enacted, it is going to require a very substantial revision,” said Schwartzman, whose group promotes freedom of expression and universal access to communications.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president that the administration is committed to finding a solution that will protect copyrights and intellectual property without impinging on the free flow of information.

Not Either Or

“We believe it’s a ‘both and,’ not an ‘either or’ proposition,” Carney said.

The debate pits two of Obama’s top donor groups, the entertainment industry and Silicon Valley, which are at odds over the legislation.

Some of Obama’s top bundlers are entertainment industry giants, including Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg, the co-founder of Miramax Film Corp., Harvey Weinstein, and Katzenberg’s political consultant, Andy Spahn. Weinstein, through his publicist, declined to be interviewed. Katzenberg and Spahn didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Californians have given more to the president’s campaign than donors from any other state, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks political money.

The president’s campaign organization, Obama for America, raised $128 million in 2011 and ended the year with $81.8 million in cash.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the leading Republican presidential candidate in fundraising, taking in $57 million last year and he started the primary season with $20 million to spend.

The president stayed last night at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, the hotel where 48-year-old pop singer Whitney Houston was found dead in a bath tub on Feb. 11.

--With assistance from Jonathan D. Salant and Eric Engleman in Washington and Esme E. Deprez in New York. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Milwaukee at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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