President Barack Obama pledged to reach out to Republicans even if it means angering fellow Democrats as he raised money for his party’s congressional candidates in 2014.
Obama was the featured speaker at a fundraiser in Dallas last night before going today to the dedication of former President George W. Bush’s library and a service for victims of a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
“I’m going to spend the next year and a half doing everything I can” to bridge differences with congressional Republicans, “even if some of you think I’m a sap,” Obama said yesterday. “Occasionally, I may make some of you angry.”
Tickets for the 60-person event benefitting the Democractic National Committee ranged from $10,000 per person to $32,400, according to the party.
Obama has committed to helping bring in money at eight fundraising events for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the political arm of his party in the House, and eight for its Senate counterpart. Last month, he was the main attraction at four fundraisers in the San Francisco area.
The ultimate goal, he said, is for Democrats to be setting the agenda in Congress, and that would mean wresting control of the House of Representatives from Republicans.
“That’s why we’re fighting, that’s why we’re here,” he said yesterday. “We win elections so that we have the possibility of delivering to the American people.”
While Texas has been a Republican stronghold in statewide and federal elections, Obama said there are a “whole lot of people in Texas who need us.”
Obama also made reference to the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured more than 260 and the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas that left 14 dead.
“Obviously it’s been a tough couple of weeks for the country,” he said. “There are no words that are satisfactory when you’re confronting these kinds of losses.”
“I don’t want to pretend we can somehow put a positive gloss” on horrific events, he said, adding that Americans can recover through the “strength, courage, fellowship” of others.
Obama spoke at the home of Naomi Aberly, one of the president’s top bundlers, or people who collect large sums of campaign cash. She raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 presidential effort and more than $500,000 for his 2012 re-election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. Her husband is Laurence Lebowitz, president and chief investment officer of the Investment Fund for Foundations, which oversees about $10 billion for charities.
Today, Obama will attend the dedication of the $250 million, 23-acre complex that includes the presidential library, museum and the George W. Bush Institute, a forum for public-policy debate. The Dallas event will mark the first time since January 2009 that five living U.S. presidents will gather in the same place.
Obama, who campaigned against Bush’s policies and opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will set politics aside for the day and join Bush and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton on the campus of Southern Methodist University.
In a recorded interview broadcast yesterday on NBC’s “Today” show, Obama described Bush as “gracious” during the transition and said he’s always had a friendly relationship with his predecessor in the White House.
“Obviously, we had some deep disagreements in terms of policy, but there’s no doubt that anybody who takes on this job has a greater appreciation for the challenges involved,” Obama said.
The younger Bush has remained largely out of the spotlight since leaving office in 2009, spending his time raising money for the policy center, mountain biking, going to Texas Rangers baseball games and taking up a new vocation: painting.
“There’s a lot of issues that people would like to get my opinion on, and I really decided to stay out of the public arena,” Bush said in an interview with ABC News broadcast yesterday.
One recent poll suggests voters are moderating their views of the wartime president. When Bush left office, his job-approval rating had plunged to 22 percent, the lowest of any president in more than 70 years, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.
Today, 47 percent of those surveyed said they approved of how Bush handled his eight years in office, his highest rating since December 2005, while 50 percent disapproved, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll published April 23.