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First lady defends husband’s record at TV taping, fundraiser

By Rick Pearson, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO—First lady Michelle Obama came to Chicago Thursday to tape a television show and make two fundraising appearances for her husband Barack.

After arriving in Chicago Thursday evening she first went to NBC Tower downtown to tape “The Steve Harvey Show,” to be broadcast Wednesday.

Mrs. Obama then went to a fundraiser at Harpo Studios, the Near West Side production company that is part of Oprah Winfrey’s media empire.

Tickets for the event began at $250 and benefit the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee of Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties, according to the president’s re-election campaign.

At Harpo Studios the setting featured an electronic backdrop with the signature “Forward” barackobama.com logo. Wearing a white dress suit, Mrs. Obama spoke from a stage while the audience of a few hundred was assembled around her in a U-shaped setting. A teleprompter also was on the stage.

She noted how she had sampled on some of her favorite pizza from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria and that some Garrett’s Popcorn was on the side. She also thanked U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, the state’s senior senator and the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky for attending, calling them “dear, dear friends.”

In a speech of just more than 27 minutes, the first lady issued a ringing defense of her husband’s administration, citing improvement in private sector jobs, health care reform, tax cuts for small business and working families, rescuing the auto industry, making college education more affordable, ending the war in Iraq, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and ending the life of Osama bin Laden. She also pitched the need for Chicago residents to help the campaign in the nearby battleground states of Iowa and Wisconsin.

Although she did not refer to the Republican presidential nominee by name, she appeared to allude to the remarks of Mitt Romney that were captured on tape and now being featured in a campaign ad for the incumbent.

Mrs. Obama said her husband had promised to tell the American people the truth, not just what they want to hear “when everyone is urging you to do what’s easy, what polls best, what gets good headlines. You see, as president, you must be driven by the struggle, hopes and dreams of all you serve. … That‘s how you make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader.”

She maintained that the administration has made strides in restoring the economy and meeting the Obama campaign’s winning 2008 motto.

“Barack has been fighting for us. He has been struggling with us. See, and together, slowly but surely we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. For three-and-a-half years we’ve been moving forward and making progress and we’re beginning to see that change we all can believe in,” she said.

She said while the president is “very proud of what we’ve all achieved together, trust me, my husband is nowhere near satisfied” with the economy. “It’s going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy that was on the brink of collapse,” she said.

Although there were plenty of men in the audience, it appeared to skew toward a female majority, prompting big applause that in “standing up for the lives of women,” the president “will always have our backs. Always!”

Urging supporters to volunteer or make phone calls in battleground states, Mrs. Obama said: “We cannot turn back now, not now. We have come so far. But we have so much more work to do.”

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