Obama Praises End to ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

President Barack Obama, addressing a group of Democratic activists following a day of meetings at the United Nations in New York, welcomed the end of the policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military.

Recounting that he had just met with former members of the military who were forced out because they were gay, Obama said, “As of today, that will never happen again.”

The military today ended its 18-year policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” meaning that troops who identify themselves as gay or lesbian will no longer face automatic discharge.

At tonight’s fund-raising event, Obama also focused on his plans to create jobs and increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for the program.

Noting that Republicans are accusing him of class warfare, he described himself as a “warrior for the middle-class.” Wealthy people, including himself, “should pay our fair share,” Obama said. “I think that most wealthy Americans would agree if they thought this would grow the economy.”

The president, alternating between international diplomacy and political party building, spent a second night raising money from New York City’s elite. Tonight he was accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama for an event at Gotham Hall, with entertainment provided by singer Alicia Keys.

Tickets started at $2,500 and some cost as much as $35,800, according to a Democratic Party official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the fundraiser. Organizers were expecting 400 guests.

Sluggish Economy

Obama is heading into his 2012 re-election campaign with an economy that administration forecasters project will grow at a sluggish 1.7 percent this year and with an unemployment rate that will average 9.1 percent in 2011 and show little change next year.

A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Sept. 9-12 found 62 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy. The president’s overall job-approval rating was 45 percent, the lowest since he was inaugurated in January 2009.

Earlier today, the first lady was joined by author and activist Gloria Steinem to rally a group of 400 donors, most of them women, at a luncheon fundraiser in Manhattan. Obama drew a standing ovation and she told the women she needed them “fired up and ready to go” a catch phrase from the 2008 campaign. Tickets for the luncheon started at $500, according to the pool report distributed by the White House.

The first lady told the women that “in the end, we’re not fighting these battles for ourselves, we’re fighting them for our daughters and our granddaughters.”

Expanding Health Care

She highlighted her husband’s expansion of health-care coverage and his naming of two women to the Supreme Court. She also promoted the president’s recently proposed $447 billion jobs plan.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Chicago today raising money for the campaign with a speech and a dinner.

Yesterday evening, Obama raised money at a dinner hosted by Evercore Partners’ Ralph Schlosstein and Roger Altman.

Tomorrow, Obama will give his address to the United Nations General Assembly and then will meet, separately, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in New York at mtalev@bloomberg.net; Hans Nichols in New York at hnichols2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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