Monday, August 06, 2012

Harvey Weinstein Hosts Dinner For President Obama: The Guests, The Menu, The Transcript

Acclaimed chef Michel Nischan cooks $35,800/plate organic menu for 60 guests, including Anne Hathaway, Anna Wintour, Aaron Sorkin, Joanne Woodward, Jerry Springer...
President Obama has seen The Dark Knight Rises, he told about 60 guests gathered on Monday evening for an intimate fundraising dinner at the massive Westport, Connecticut estate of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and his wife, fashion designer Georgina Chapman. One of the film's stars, Anne Hathaway, was among those who paid $35,800 each to support the President, as were Vogue's Anna Wintour, who was seated beside TV/silver screen scribe Aaron Sorkin. Also enjoying themselves by candlelight in the 8,900 square-foot waterfront mansion: Joanne Woodward, Jerry Springer and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. (Above: The President speaking at a reception before the Weinstein dinner)

"I did get a chance to see Batman. And she was the best thing in it," the President said of Hathaway, after calling her "spectacular."

The actress,  in a silver dress with a tight bodice and puffed sleeves gathered from the elbow to the shoulder, "beamed and laughed," according to pool.

The President, clad in a dark suit, had more compliments, as he spoke, microphone in hand: Sorkin, who gifted America with The West Wing, "writes the way every Democrat in Washington wished they spoke."  Woodward and her deceased husband Paul Newman "just embodied the American spirit in so many ways," he said.

"Their love story and the way they took so many people under their wing and helped so many people I think made them something more important than just folks in film."

Newman got more play: As he introduced the President, Weinstein equated Mr. Obama with the film legend.

"You can make the case that he's the Paul Newman of American presidents," Weinstein said.

With the Long Island Sound glimmering in the distance, the guests were gathered around six candle-lit tables for ten, with low arrangements of pink dahlias. The room was softly lit, with large rough wooden beams crisscrossing a high arched ceiling. Two of Weinstein's gold Oscar statues were prominently displayed on a bookshelf.

After ticking off his achievements, the President had one message, plain and simple:

"We've had a lot of work to do over the last three and a half years, and we're not done."

The heirloom, locally sourced menu...

President Obama ate dinner during the evening, which is not always a given at fundraisers. And Paul Newman also had something of a hand in the menu, which was cooked by two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Michel Nischan (l) and his team. Nischan, who has visited the White House, co-founded his organic, locally sourced Dressing Room – A Homegrown Restaurant in Westport, CT, with Newman. With his Wholesome Wave foundation, Nischan is a major supporter of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and has devoted himself to fostering "links between agriculture and underserved communities."

The Presidential menu, according to Nischan's spokesman, opened with an heirloom tomato salad over pickled cucumbers from the chef's garden. The entree was heirloom chicken from Connecticut, served with a potato tart and local bok choy, skillet seared with miso and agave, with shaved sweet carrots.  For dessert, guests enjoyed pan fried Angel Food Cake, served with local berries and honey.

As a side note, White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses created the original dessert menu at Dressing Room before giving up "private practice" to join the White House staff.

Weinstein and Wintour are among the top bundlers for the President's campaign, and both have now hosted pricey fundraising dinners since visiting the White House in March as the President's guests at the State Dinner in honor of British Prime Minister David Cameron

The President's full remarks are below. He arrived at Weinstein's Colonial-style estate at 7:33 PM, and by 9:35 PM he was at New York's JFK International Airport, boarding Air Force One for the flight back to Washington, DC.

Romney is "Robin Hood in Reverse"...

Earlier in the evening at a $500/ticket reception at the Stamford Marriott hotel, the President introduced a new slam for Mitt Romney's tax plan, billing it "Romney Hood."

"The entire centerpiece of Mitt Romney’s economic plan is a new $5 trillion tax cut," the President said. "...he’d ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year."

"It’s like Robin Hood in reverse," the President proclaimed.

He'll be reiterating that memorable comment on Wednesday and Thursday, as he makes a two-day swing through the battleground state of Colorado.

The President arrived at the White House via Marine One  at 10:50 PM, and entered, followed by aides who had accompanied him on the trip:  Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Trip Director Marvin Nicholson.


The transcript of the President's dinner remarks:

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
August 6, 2012


Private Residence
Westport, Connecticut

8:00 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Well, it is wonderful to be here. And there are just a couple of people I want to acknowledge. First of all, obviously Harvey and Georgina have just been great friends and have done so much for us -- not just in this election, but in the previous one. A couple of other people who I want to mention -- your Governor, Dan Malloy, is here, who's doing outstanding work here in Connecticut. (Applause.)

I want to thank Anne Hathaway for taking the time to host us. She's spectacular. (Laughter.) And I did get a chance to see Batman. (Laughter.) And she was the best thing in it. (Laughter.) That's just my personal opinion. Aaron Sorkin, who writes the way every Democrat in Washington wished they spoke. (Laughter and applause.) Aaron, thank you.

And Joanne Woodward -- what a treat this is. Joanne and Paul were not only I think what was best about American film, but also just embodied the American spirit in so many ways. And their love story and the way they took so many people under their wing and helped so many people I think made them something more important than just folks in film. And for her to be here, what a great treat that is. So thank you so much for taking the time. (Applause.) Thank you.

Now, you know, in these kind of intimate settings, I usually don't make a long speech because what I want to do is have a conversation. And so let me just say a few things at the top.

I'll give you a sense of the kind of season we're in. Jim Messina, my campaign manager, tells this story. He was at an event like this, and there was a young couple; they had a four-year-old boy, cute as can be. And during this campaign event, there was a picture of me there. And so the parents, very proudly, prompt the son, "Who is that?" And he says, "That's Barack Obama." And they say, "Well, and what does Barack Obama do?" And he thinks for a second, and he says, "Barack Obama approves this message." (Laughter and applause.)

Now, that speaks to the state of affairs in politics today. (Laughter.) Unless you have -- you don't have a TV set or your cable is busted, you're seeing an awful lot of stuff about politics. And the reason I think there's so much intensity is because we've got a choice that is as stark and as critical as any that we've seen in my lifetime -- in some ways, more important than 2008.

In 2008, we came together -- and it wasn't just Democrats, it was independents and some Republicans -- because we recognized that for over a decade the core idea at the heart of this country was at risk -- the idea that if you work hard, that hard work is rewarded; that you can make it here if you try, regardless of what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is.

And for a decade, we had seen job growth slow and we had seen jobs moving overseas, and we had seen people working harder and harder but coming up with less because the costs were going up a lot faster than their wages and their incomes. And this all culminated in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

We have spent three and a half years, a little over three and a half years now, trying to make sure that this country gets back on its feet. And because of the extraordinary resilience of the American people, we have seen signs of recovery -- 4.5 million new jobs, half a million new manufacturing jobs, an auto industry that is reinvigorated.

But we didn’t work this hard in 2008 just to get back to where we were in 2007. Our notion was that we needed to rebuild a country where the foundations for people who were willing to act responsibly were there for them either to feel security in the middle class or to climb into the middle class -- and maybe do even better. And that means making sure that we have an education system that works -- which is why we've initiated more aggressive education reform across the country than any President in a very long time; and the reason that we put so much emphasis on making college more affordable for young people.

It meant health care, because in a country this wealthy, we shouldn’t go bankrupt when we get sick. And the Affordable Care Act means that 30 million people will have health insurance, but it also means that people who already have health insurance have a little more security.

We did an event just before we came here, and there was a woman who clearly is doing fine and is well-insured, but she personally thanked me for the health care bill because she said, my husband just got cancer and we weren’t sure whether we were going to hit that $1 million limit on our insurance policy. Well, that limit is no longer allowed under the Affordable Care Act -- which means they may not lose their house because of an illness. (Applause.)

It means making investments in science and research that are what made us an economic superpower. It means having a tax code that's fair so that we bring down our deficit not on the backs of folks who are struggling, but we ask those of us who are -- who've been incredibly blessed by this country to do a little bit more, understanding that when folks in the middle and the bottom are doing well, everybody does well and the economy grows.

It means a foreign policy that recognizes the force of our example and our ideals and our capacity to engage with countries diplomatically is a complement to our incredible military power. And it's not a sign of weakness to say that we are going to reach out around the world and engage people.

So we've had a lot of work to do over the last three and a half years, and we're not done. We're just -- we've gotten on track, but these gains are reversible. And you've got the other party and the other candidate who don't just want to reverse the gains that we've made over the last three and a half years, but in many ways want to reverse gains we've made over the last 40, 0r 50, or 60 years.

When you look at their budget, and they say that they want to initiate a $5 trillion tax cut on top of the Bush tax cut, what that functionally means is that either you blow up the deficit by another $5 trillion -- which they say is irresponsible -- or you're going to have to eliminate funding for education, for infrastructure, for basic science and research. Medicare is going to be a voucher system, which means that seniors may end up paying thousands of dollars more for care that they were counting on.

When Mitt Romney says he wants to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood I think he means it. When he says that Arizona is a model for how we should deal with immigration, I think that fundamentally misunderstands that we're a nation of laws but also a nation of immigrants.

So on a whole host of issues, you've got very stark differences. And the good news is that you guys are the tie-breaker. You and the American people. And when you walk into that ballot box -- or don't walk into the ballot box. That's the second time I've said this today. (Laughter.) When you walk into the voting booth -- it's illegal, I'm sure, to walk into a ballot box. (Laughter.) When you cast your ballot, you will have the opportunity to determine the course of this country's direction not just tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now, but probably for decades to come.

And the great privilege of being President is you interact with people from every walk of life, from every corner of the country. And what you discover is the faith that I brought into this office in the American people -- their core decency and their values and their resilience and their fundamental fairness -- they have never disappointed me. And I'm confident that they won't this time either, despite the fact that we've got all these negative ads raining down on our heads, and super PACs running around with folks writing $10 million checks -- because when the American people focus and are paying attention, their instincts are sound and they know what makes this country great.

That's what we're going to be fighting for, and we've got 90 days to do it. So I hope you guys are onboard. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 8:10 P.M. EDT

*Photo of President Obama by Reuters/pool; Nischan photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama