President Barack Obama acknowledged a sense of national anxiety about deepening overseas conflicts, as the U.S. confronts crises in the Middle East and Ukraine.
“People are anxious” about “big challenges overseas,” he said at a Democratic fundraiser in Seattle tonight.
“People’s concern is just the sense that around the world the old order isn’t holding and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order,” he said.
Obama is in the midst of a three-day fundraising swing, raising money from top donors at the same time his administration responds to the aftermath of the July 17 downing of a Malaysian passenger jet in Ukraine and Israel’s offensive against militants in Gaza. He’s scheduled to appear at five events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle to benefit Democratic candidates running in November’s elections.
White House officials defended Obama’s decision to stick with his schedule, saying the president travels with full communications capability and staff that allows him to do his job from the road.
On the flight to Seattle, he called Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands from Air Force One to discuss evidence that Russia is continuing to send weapons and fighters into Ukraine. Most of the passengers aboard the Malaysian Airlines jet that was shot down were from the Netherlands.
On his arrival at a mansion owned by Bruce and Ann Blume in the Seattle neighborhood of Lake Washington, Obama was met with two dozen demonstrators protesting Israel’s incursion into Gaza chanting, “Free Palestine” and “Killing children is a crime.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, attacked Obama for being across the country as Congress debates legislation to deal with the flood of young migrants illegally crossing the U.S. border with Mexico.
“The president has failed to do is the job he’s paid to do, which is to lead the country,” McConnell said today at the U.S. Capitol. There’s been “a stunning lack of communication with the legislators.”
In a concession to critics, Obama bypassed a possible television appearance with comedian Jimmy Kimmel. The White House acknowledged that during planning for the trip, officials had been in touch with ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in Los Angeles about Obama appearing on the late-night show.
The stop, aides decided, wouldn’t be good politics.
The decision against it “is at least in part related to the challenges of doing a comedy show in the midst of some of these other, more serious matters that the president’s dealing with in the international scene,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.
Obama is proceeding with other events where he will mingle with Hollywood stars and technology moguls. Tonight, donors who gave as much as $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee dined on foie gras at the home overlooking Lake Washington. Bruce Blume owns a commercial real estate company.
The president, in his remarks at the gathering, promised to increase federal efforts to combat the largest wildfire in the history of Washington state, saying climate change has increased their frequency and intensity across the whole region.
“Our firefighters stake such risks and sacrifice so much to fight them but it’s a big challenge,” said Obama, who visited the home in May 2012 to raise money for his re-election bid. “The trend line is for increased fires.”
Obama during his fundraising swing also will attend events at the homes of real estate investor George Marcus in Los Altos Hills, California, screenwriter Shonda Rhimes in Los Angeles, and the co-founder and former Costco Wholesale Corp. head Jim Sinegal in the Seattle suburbs.
Previous president have been criticized for tending to partisan politics during foreign conflicts.
In 2004, President George W. Bush attended a fundraiser in New York City on the night that a terrorist train bombing in Madrid earlier in the day had killed almost 200 people. Two years later, he courted donors in Macon, Georgia, the day after North Korea detonated its first nuclear weapon.