Barack Obama spoke to 10,000 people at a rally in Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon -- but all the press wanted to ask him about was the fundraiser hosted later that day by Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, and David Geffen at the Beverly Hilton, which ended up raising $1.3 million.
But, of course, the fundraiser, and the money raised, and the stars who contributed, and the dinner for Obama hosted by Geffen for people who had raised $46,000 or more wouldn't have meant anything without the thousands of people who showed up at the rally -- and the tens of thousands who are turning out to see Obama all around the country.
"That was something special. You don't see that kind of enthusiasm -- and especially that kind of crowd. You had it all: young, old, black, white, men, women. It was amazing. Especially this early in a campaign."
Those were the words of a former Bill Clinton advance man as he walked away from the afternoon event. But it was a sentiment I heard expressed again and again at the rally: "That was something special."
"I haven't been in Washington long, but I've been there long enough to know it has to change," Obama said in his speech, clearly owning the mantle of the outsider. And he got some of his loudest cheers with his attack on the war in Iraq, calling it a "war that never should have been authorized."
The rhetorical high-point of Obama's speech came when he quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous observation that "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice" -- then told the crowd that that was true but that the arc would only bend if we all pulled on it together.
Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse city, but one that often feels Balkanized -- its many ethnic groups each ensconced in their own enclave. Not today. The boisterous Obama crowd included a heartening mix of races and ages. There were thousands of young people at the rally, their eyes alight with fervor and an eagerness to be a part of a real movement to change America. Obama has clearly hit a nerve with young America (one only need look at the startling response his candidacy has gotten on social networking sites such as Facebook).
Even after Obama had left the rally, groups of young people stood around, cheering and chanting his name, and waving homemade signs: "Bush Take A Walk, We Want Barack," "Heal Bush Trauma, Vote Obama," "Te Queremos Obama."
Over in the press area, Bill Schneider was recording a soundbyte for CNN: "In Hollywood they say you need a high concept. Here's one: A Political Star is Born."
Both the crowd at the rally and the crowd at the Beverly Hilton agreed.
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