7:55 p.m. update: After a whirlwind, four-stop, seven-hour trip to Austin, President Obama is headed back to Bergstrom to depart for Dallas.
His last stop was a 70-person fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee at the Tarrytown home of Amy and Kirk Rudy, according to a White House media pool report.
“When I go to any city, I always say I love the city. But I really love Austin,” Obama told the guests.
5:55 p.m. update: Here are some highlights from the White House media pool report on Obama’s remarks at the DNC fundraiser that just wrapped up at the Austin Music Hall:
“Hello, Texas!” Obama shouted. “It’s just a thing, me and Austin, Texas. We’ve got that psychic connection. I love Austin, Texas. I really do,” he said, adding that his trip to SXSW earlier in the day was like a “deep spring break.”
He noted that his SXSW panel was in strange topics like “Dude, where’s my par? Making virtual reality golf.”
“It’s true,” Obama said. “So I can confirm, you’ve kept Austin weird.”
In his speech, Obama took direct and repeated aim at Donald Trump, saying that there’s “a debate inside of the other party that is fantasy, and school yard taunts, and sellin’ stuff like it’s the home shopping network.”
Obama also mocked establishment Republicans, saying, “We’re shocked someone is fanning anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim sentiment! … We’re shocked! We’re shocked that someone could be loose with the facts. Or distort someone’s record. Shocked!”Obama continued: “How could you be shocked? This was the guy who was sure I was born in Kenya. … As long as it was being directed at me, they were fine with it. It was a hoot … and suddenly they’re shocked!”
Obama called Trump “a distillation of what has been going on in their party for more than a decade. … This is the message that’s been fed … that you just deny the evidence of science. That compromise is a betrayal. That the other side isn’t simply wrong … the other side is destroying the country. Or treasonous. Look it up, that’s what they’ve been saying. So they can’t be surprised when somebody says, ‘I can make up stuff better than that.'”
Obama said, “The reaction is something they have to take responsibility for and then make an adjustment.”
Obama also spent time on voting rights issues, which he brought up in his SXSW remarks as well: “That we would purposefully make it harder for people to vote is shameful. It’s shameful, whatever your party, it can’t be something we’re proud of. The history of restricting the franchise in this country isn’t the best part of our history. It’s the worst part of our history.”
5:30 p.m. update: President Obama had Torchy’s for lunch, but what will have he have for dinner, which he’ll eat at a private residence in Tarrytown during a small fundraiser?
Statesman food writer Addie Broyles has the low-down: Quincy Adams Erickson, chef/owner of Fete Accompli, is catering the private dinner tonight, and though I don’t have details of the menu yet, we know at least one thing that will be on the menu: Garlic chives, harvested this morning at Urban Roots‘ farm in East Austin.
5:26 p.m. update: Obama is speaking now at the DNC fundraiser at the Austin Music Hall. It’s the first of four funders he’ll do in Austin and Dallas between now and tomorrow evening.
J. Cole was the opening act:
5:15 p.m. update: Remember how a gun-rights activists planning an open-carry demonstration in Austin today said that things could “get interesting” because Obama would be in town and another activist told people to shoot the president if they get a “clear shot” in a Facebook comment?
Well, it did get interesting. But not in the way you might expect.
While the event was supposed to be low key compared to previous marches by the group, arguments between Grisham and a bare-breasted anti-gun protester drew the stares of onlookers and giggles from groups of grade-school children visiting the Capitol.
“I saw your guy threaten to shoot the President,” the woman told Grisham. The woman whose breasts were exposed during the entire march did not want to be identified because she said she feared retaliation.
5:10 p.m. update: More less-than-ideal news for South by Southwest founders on their big day: Statesman reporter Phil Jankowski reports that the “wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of one of the victims of a 2014 fatal crash during the South by Southwest Music Festival added the individual founders of the event Friday, naming them as liable defendants in the incident.”
4:50 p.m. update: The DNC fundraiser at the Austin Music Hall will be hosted by William Hurley, the Chaotic Media co-founder who goes by “whurley,” and will include a musical performance by J. Cole, according to a White House media pool report.
Will.i.am will also be there. You may recall he produced the song “Yes We Can” during Obama’s 2008 campaign.
4:28 p.m. update: Outside the Austin Music Hall, where Obama is due to speak at a DNC fundraiser, protesters criticized his administration’s record-setting pace of deporting unauthorized immigrants and chanted, “Obama! Obama! Don’t deport my mama!”
Statesman reporter Nicole Chavez is on the scene:
4:20 p.m. update: In a sad twist on what is otherwise a triumphant day for South by Southwest, one of the festival’s co-founders, Louis Meyers, has been confirmed dead.
Statesman music critic Peter Blackstock writes:
Meyers was the event’s primary music booker until selling his share in the event after the 1994 conference. In the 1980s, he also was a partner in beloved local venue Liberty Lunch and managed several local bands.
After his SXSW tenure, Meyers lived overseas for many years before returning to the United States to become director of Folk Alliance International, an annual convention in Kansas City. He left that position in 2014 and moved back to Austin, where he was managing local singer-songwriter Sam Baker.
Initial reports were that Meyers died of a heart attack overnight. News began to spread throughout the local music community while most of SXSW’s staff was attending President Obama’s opening keynote of this year’s SXSW Interactive at the Long Center.
Meyers also was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and producer who recently had helped Missouri band the HillBenders record a bluegrass version of the Who’s “Tommy” album. Two weeks ago, he was a featured guest performer at Christine Albert’s weekly “Mystery Monday” residency at El Mercado Backstage.
4:14 p.m. update: Our slideshow of photos from Obama’s trip to Austin has been updated. Check it out here.
3:55 p.m. update: President Obama, who has been notably quiet on the court case between Apple and the federal government over unlocking an iPhone used by one of the San Bernadino shooters, declined to discuss the case’s particulars but offered a soliloquy on the conundrum of stopping terrorism in the age of encryption.
“The question we now have to ask is: If it’s technologically possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong that there’s no key, there’s no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot? What mechanisms do we have available to even do simple things like tax enforcement because if in fact you can’t crack that at all, government can’t get in, then everybody’s walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket. So there has to be some concession to the need to get into that information somehow,” he said.
The “absolutist view” of not allowing the government to have any access to encrypted communications, he said, “is fetishizing our phones above every other value and that can’t be the right answer.”
Obama said the answer may be a technological solution in which companies create a highly, but not completely, encrypted system that very few people can access.
For context on the debate over encryption, here’s an American-Statesman editorial calling on Congress to tackle the issue.
Now Obama is off to a DNC fundraiser at the Austin Music Hall, where HUGE lines formed earlier.
3:36 p.m. update: The liveblog is coming full circle! Obama just dropped a #ThanksObama on stage at South by Southwest.
When discussing Republicans’ criticism of the stimulus bill, Obama said that the law was being attacked “despite that the fact that unemployment is now below 5 percent and we avoided a great depression – thanks, Obama.”
As previously noted, #ThanksObama became a thing when people started poking fun at those that seem to blame the president for everything wrong in life. Earlier today, many an Austinite were thanking POTUS for their traffic troubles.
3:25 p.m. update: President Obama, discussing efforts to increase voter turnout, threw a couple burns in the direction of the Lone Star State during his South by Southwest keynote.
“The folks who are governing the good state of Texas aren’t interested in having more people participate,” Obama said. “Texas is never going to be an early adapter of what I’m talking about here.”
Obama, presumably, was referring to measures like the Texas voter ID law, which critics have said is aimed at decreasing turnout among likely Democratic voters like racial minorities and young people. The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith noted that Texas had the lowest per-capita voter turnout in the country on Super Tuesday.
3:19 p.m. update: Asked about how the bloated and bureaucratic culture of federal government could cut it in the fast-moving world of technology, Obama joked about the infamously rocky rollout of the website for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“This was a little embarrassing for me because I was the cool, early-adopter president, and my entire campaign had been premised on having really cool technology and social media and all of that,” he said to laughter. “Here’s what happened: The procurement system, the specifications, the way that software was built in government was adapted for the age when a procurement was for buying boots or buying pencils or buying furniture as opposed to buying software.”
Obama said the experience led to him create the U.S. Digital Services, which seeks to attract private-sector tech experts for short stints helping the federal government advance.
“We had to bring in a SWAT team of all my friends from Silicon Valley, from Austin some of the best software engineers to come in and fix (the Obamacare website), which we did,” Obama said. “What we realized is we could potentially build a SWAT team, a world-class technology office inside of government that was helping across government. We’ve dubbed that the U.S. Digital Services, and we’ve got some of the top talent .”
3:05 update: President Obama’s event at South by Southwest Interactive has begun. He’s being interviewed onstage by Texas Tribune Founder and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith about “21st Century civic engagement and public service.”
But Obama said he had other reasons for coming as well: “I’m here because I like excuses to come to Austin, Texas. That’s a good enough reason.”
Right off the bat, he gave a shout-out to UT System Chancellor William McRaven, who was a top military official under Obama before coming to Austin: “one of my favorite people … a truly great American,” Obama said.
2:53 p.m. update: OK, maybe I was too harsh on John Stanton, the D.C. reporter who is accompanying Obama on his trip to Austin and smack-talking SXSW in his White House press pool reports.
In his last report, he landed another dig at SXSW but also recognized his error in calling a taco a burrito:
“The motorcade arrived at the Long Center in Austin just after 3 pm. We are now holding waiting for the President’s event here at SXSW, which is basically Aspen Ideas but for people who ride those dumb hoverboards at work. … And a correction on the Torchy’s pool report. All the food items ordered were tacos, not burritos. Your yankee pooler was overcome by the delicious aroma and confused the two very different, very delicious delights. My apologies.”
2:46 p.m. update: By the way, the SXSW hatorade continues to pour out of Buzzfeed D.C. bureau chief John Stanton, who is traveling with Obama as the White House press pooler.
He writes: “President Obama was greeted by Austin Mayor Steve Adler at 1:15. POTUS is now tieless, likely to fit in with the hip cool tech kids at South By Southwest. … At 1:22 We’re now rolling to SXSW, which is basically Davos but for people who buy expensive Chuck Taylor’s and wear cardigans.”
While Stanton seems to think he knows everything about SXSW and Austin, he can’t even get straight what food we’re waging a meaningless war over: “Obama ordered three tacos for himself – a Democrat, a Republican ‘because I’m also bipartisan’ and an independent. He also ordered a breakfast burrito for Press Secretary Josh Earnest, thus inserting the White House into the great breakfast burrito war that is shaking Texas’ culinary foundations,” he wrote.
Everyone knows the Great Breakfast Burrito Brawl ended in 1937. The current war is about tacos, John. Geez.
2:36 p.m. update: With President Obama about to take the stage, South by Southwest has confirmed that festival co-founder Louis Meyers is dead.
More to come on this sad news.
2:10 p.m. update: Squad goals:
2:05 p.m. update: Back on the road. Next stop (presumably): SXSW.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler tweeted that getting tacos with Obama does not violate the I-35 accords, which brought peace to the Great Breakfast Taco War of 2016 against San Antonio. Or does it just mean Austin won?
1:59 p.m. update: Obama orders the polypartisan platter at Torchy’s.
1:49 p.m. update: It seems the Torchy’s on South 1st is the locale for Obama’s traditional unannounced pitstop this trip.
I say a failure to order queso is an impeachable offense.
1:42 p.m. update: Statesman photographer Ricardo Brazziell’s photos of Obama deplaning Air Force One and meeting Austin Mayor Steve Adler on the tarmac.
1:39 p.m. update: Ppl got ‘pinions for prezzy.
1:34 p.m. update: Traffic is about what you’d expect as Obama’s motorcade heads for the Long Center during the first day of South by Southwest:
But America’s 57th president is taking it in stride:
1:28 p.m. update: Obama is making his way to downtown Austin now. The Sixth Street Cowboy is among the unofficial dignitaries welcoming the president as he rolls by:
1:24 p.m. update: More live video feed from reporter Tony Plohetski, who just watched as Obama exited Air Force One, hopped in the motorcade and headed toward downtown Austin:
Before he left the airport, Obama was greeted by Mayor Steve Adler:
1:08 p.m. update: The president is in the Lone Star State! Air Force One just touched down at Bergstrom. Watch a livestream:
And his motorcade is waiting.
Obama has about an hour and a half before his SXSW event begins. He often makes unexpected stops to grab a bite to eat when traveling. (He’s been to Franklin before.)
1 p.m. update: Statesman investigative reporter Tony Plohetski is doing a live video feed from Bergstrom, where he is talking to the Austinites who have been selected to greet the president when he arrives momentarily.
Meanwhile, one of those Austinites, Mayor Steve Adler, looks like he could use some company:
12:40 update: With President Barack Obama scheduled to arrive in Austin in 30 minutes, folks are waiting for his arrival at Bergstrom and making their way into the Long Center for Performing Arts, where he’ll give the opening keynote South by Southwest Interactive.
Statesman reporters Tony Plohetski and Peter Blackstock are with the crowds:
Noon update: Well, this was inevitable.
The #ThanksObama hashtag, originally intended to make fun of those who blamed the president for things that were not his fault, is taking off among Austinites blaming Obama for something that is at least partially his fault: horrific traffic on the first day of South by Southwest.
Statesman Web guru Eric “World Wide” Webb has the pick of the litter here.
11:10 a.m. update: The president is on his way to Austin.
President Barack Obama boarded Air Force One just before 11 a.m. Eastern time at Andrews Air Force Base and is en route to Austin, according to a White House pool report written by Buzzfeed D.C. bureau chief John Stanton.
White House staffers making the trek with the president include: Anita Breckenridge, deputy chief of staff; David Simas, director of the office of political strategy; Josh Earnest, press secretary; and Joe Paulsen, traveling aide.
In his report, Stanton noted that Obama is on his way to the “the world’s largest hipster navel gazing confab, South By Southwest.” Freal? Washingtonians making fun of navel gazing is like Donald Trump attacking Mother Teresa for lacking humility.
Original story: In his eighth visit to Austin since taking office, President Barack Obama is coming to town today to give an opening keynote at South by Southwest Interactive.
Air Force One is scheduled to touch down at Bergstrom at 1:10 p.m., and POTUS will be on the ground for less than seven hours. Aside from chatting up techsters and making traffic nightmarish, Obama will speak at a pair of fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee while he’s in Austin.
Obama’s first stop will be his 2:40 p.m. SXSW event at the Long Center for Performing Arts, where he’ll participate in “a panel conversation about civic engagement in the 21st Century before an audience of creators, early adopters and entrepreneurs who are defining the future of our connected lives,” according to the White House. He will be interviewed onstage by Evan Smith, founder and editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune.
At 4 p.m., Obama is set to speak at the Austin Music Hall for the first DNC funder, a larger event with tickets ranging from the $250 “general ticket guest” to the $10,000 “photo line” option to the $33,400 “co-host” level.
From there, he’ll go to a smaller, pricier fundraiser at a private residence in Tarrytown at 6:20 p.m. before departing Bergstrom for Dallas at 7:45 p.m.
A president’s presence has a tendency to shake things up for cities that aren’t D.C. School kids in Central Austin will get out early. Gun rights activists who had already planned an open-carry demonstration say things “may get interesting” with Obama in town. And traffic, of course, will reach don’t-even-bother status as the motorcade complicates the usual SXSW gridlock.
Obama has a habit of making unexpected stops at local eateries when he travels, so bring your selfie stick and your umbrella. (Has someone invented the selfiebrella yet? Dibs.)
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