Talk about making a splash. For his first SXSW, President Obama surprised festivalgoers as a late addition to the tech lineup, delivering a keynote conversation on Friday that touched on Apple’s ongoing imbroglio with the FBI over whether the company should comply with the government’s demand to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists. But POTUS saved the real fireworks for the evening—unloading on Donald Trump and the Republican Party during a pricey fundraiser sponsored by the Democratic National Committee.
Dubbed “Our Party,” tickets started at $250 and ballooned all the way up to $33,400 for the honor of serving as “co-host” of the event. According to the DNC, “Our Party, led by President Obama, is focused on building an economy that lasts—an economy that lifts up all Americans. That’s why Democrats in all 50 states are working in neighborhoods and communities to advance issues like job creation, education, health care, and clean energy.” The night’s top-dollar festivities included a performance by rapper J. Cole and a speech by President Obama himself, who gave his guests their money’s worth.
President Obama, who’s remained relatively mum on the meteoric (and deeply unsettling) rise of Donald J. Trump—perhaps he thought he’d buried him for good with that killer stand-up set during the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner—unloaded on the GOP frontrunner. “We’re shocked someone is fanning anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim sentiment!” exclaimed Obama of Trump, drawing a line between the candidate and the Republican Party’s base over the last several years. “We’re shocked! We’re shocked that someone could be loose with the facts—or distort someone’s record. Shocked!”
“How could you be shocked?” he continued, channeling Claude Rains’ character in Casablanca. “This was the guy who was sure I was born in Kenya. And wasn’t letting go… As long as it was being directed at me, they were fine with it! It was a hoot! And suddenly they’re shocked—shocked!—that gambling’s going on in this establishment.” By now, it’s no secret that Trump has stoked the flames of racial animus in this country—ones that were ratcheted up the very moment President Obama became the first Black President in American history. From his announcement speech branding Mexicans “rapists” and drug smugglers, to his recent failure to reject the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke on CNN, to his hostile rallies, where black protesters are regularly assaulted and his legion of devoted acolytes engage in a Nazi-esque salute. Cue Obama: “[Trump is] 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—we disagree—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.’”
“The reaction is something they have to take responsibility for and then make an adjustment,” he proclaimed.
POTUS began the evening on a lighter note, rattling off his list of accomplishments while in office before seguing into bashing The Donald.“Imagine what Trump would say if he had this record,” Obama said. “Instead of selling steaks!”He laughed, adding, "Has anybody tried that wine?"