Stage left: Obama compliments Manning supporters at fundraiser

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Obama’s April 21 fundraiser in San Francisco was temporarily disrupted by a group of attendees who sang a song calling for the release of Bradley Manning. The U.S. soldier is suspected of giving the Wikileaks site thousands of military secrets, including the names of Afghan civilians who are helping fight the Taliban.

The song began:

Dear Mr. President we honor you today sir,

Each of us brought you $5,000,

It takes a lot of Benjamins to run a campaign,

I paid my dues, where’s our change?

The interruption illustrates the difficult course Obama must chart to satisfy his supporters —including far-left progressives, wealthy donors, poor people and upward-bound university students — while also reaching out to swing voters. Independents are giving him a mid-40s rating, partly because unemployment and gas prices are rising, yet progressives want the president to promote further left-wing change. The group’s organizer, Naomi Pitcairn, paid $76,000 to attend the fundraiser, which was held at the St. Regis Hotel, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Pitcairn wore a T-shirt that read, “Free Bradley Manning,” and her group displayed small signs calling for the release of Manning. Their interruption began after Obama had opened his speech by praising House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose home district includes much of the city.

The song continued:

We’ll vote for you in 2012, yes that’s true,

Look at the Republicans — what else can we do?

Even though we don’t know if we’ll retain our liberties,

In what you seem content to call a free society.

Yes it’s true that Terry Jones is legally free,

To burn a people’s holy book in shameful effigy,

But at another location in this country,

Alone in a 6×12 cell sits Bradley,

23 hours a day is night,

The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing ain’t right.

We paid our dues, where’s our change?

At that point, Pitcairn was led out of the room by the Secret Service, and two other singers followed her out. One of the singers handed a pool reporter a paper bearing the lyrics and the URL freshjuiceparty.com. The website offers small payments to any group that sings the song in public and then forwards the video to the website. The other singers remained and applauded Obama’s speech.

In March, the Department of State’s press secretary resigned after he criticized Manning’s treatment in prison. The rules, which briefly forced Manning to sleep naked, are “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” said press secretary P.J. Crowley. The following day, Obama endorsed the prison rules, and Crowley quit April 10.

When Pitcairn’s song ended, Obama said “that was a nice song. You guys have much better voices that I have.” He also said that his 2012 campaign would be aided by people with the group’s level of energy and creativity. “There’s an example of creativity,” he said.