Security was both tight and a little lax at Obama’s fundraiser in Seattle at the Paramount Theater.
SEATTLE — I have been to a number of presidential campaign events with the UW Election Eye team. I saw and talked to Republican candidates in South Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, and even in Pasco, just over the Cascades.
As a citizen, standing in the same room as these men has been enthralling — whatever one thinks of the candidates, they do tend to hold a room.
As a member of the press, the security to get in the same room as these men has been pretty low key. This was mostly true even once many of them received Secret Service details. I remember not being allowed to have a ballpoint pen in my hand when I went up to speak to Rick Santorum, but that was about it.
But today when I entered the same room as President Barack Obama, security was hiked up.
As part of the press, I was told to arrive within a 15-minute window at a location close to the Paramount Theater, the site of an Obama fundraiser today with seats starting at a hefty $1,000. Once there, I checked in and was told that should I need to use the restroom during Obama’s speech, I should find one of the staff and have them usher me to the restroom. Can anyone say, “Bathroom buddies?”
Once the press was in attendance, we were instructed to form a single file line. Again, it felt like kindergarten all over again — complete with the children, uh reporters, moaning about it. We then proceeded to an alley beside the Paramount, and were asked to put all of our belongings along the wall and to stand several feet from them. As I stared at the graffiti covered wall, waiting in a line in a back alley, it felt a little like a movie scene in which a character was about to be executed.
Secret Service asked each of us to step forward to be checked with a metal detector wand. When the agent motioned me forward, I let him know that I have an insulin pump in my pocket — I am a Type I Diabetic. He said it was okay, and then moved the wand over only the top half of my body, steering clear of my pump and the entire lower half of my body. I’ve had a more thorough security check at a Radiohead concert.
At 3 pm, over an hour from when I originally arrived for the event, we made our way to the theater and POTUS took the stage to a long-held standing ovation and the sounds of U2’s “City of Blinding Lights.” It was indeed quite sunny today in Seattle.
He spoke about the usual topics — job growth, the auto bailout, health care reform, education funding, the exit of troops from Afghanistan. He stayed on message referencing his campaign slogan, “Forward,” at least 13 times. He repeatedly touched on how Mitt Romney was trying to move us as a nation back in time.
But people in the audience were waiting, anticipating, his remarks on same-sex marriage. Roughly 20 minutes into the speech, he answered their anticipation: “And here in Washington, you’ll have the chance to make your voice heard on the issue of making sure that everybody, regardless of sexual orientation, is treated fairly…We’re moving forward.” The place erupted in sustained applause.
Once Obama concluded his speech by saying he was “Fired up!,” people quickly filed out of the theater. I rushed to grab an interview before everyone was gone. Michele Kammerer — a veteran firefighter, transgender workplace consultant, and queer civil rights activist — came from Bellingham to hear Obama speak. As an activist and transgender woman, she was surprised but elated by Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.
“He’s done more for queer civil rights than any other president,” she said. When I asked her about the timing of Obama’s announcement and about her surprise, she said that she didn’t expect him to publicly support same-sex marriage right now, but that she believes he has planned this moment from when he ran in 2008. “He is a long-range thinker, and he takes his time, moving incrementally.”
Like the press when the president is in the house, apparently.