As always, there was a lot more going on than I could fit into the story.
I got to the site of the first fundraiser, at the Woodside home of Symantec chairman John Thompson, between 3 and 3:30 p.m. and soon realized any protestors or supporters would be held back elsewhere. The only folks I saw there who weren’t law enforcement or on their way through the security checks at the gate were some neighbors – two parents and their two daughters – just up the road, watching the bomb squad’s dog sniff their mailbox.
They told me they’re a Republican household. Asked what he’d tell the President if he were inside the event, the dad replied, “I’d say, ‘Your policies don’t work.’”
I headed back out to Sand Hill Road and Whiskey Hill Road, the rally point for a crowd of protestors that grew to more than 100 by the time the motorcade went by at 6:11 p.m.
Sharon Hiensley, 65, of Fremont, held a sign that said “Stop killing the dream of the young and poor – stop illegal aliens taking over our jobs.”
Owen Jones, 59, of Fremont, stood next to her; his sign said “Illegals cost U.S. trillions –no more ‘freebies’ 4 illegal aliens.” He described himself as a 40-year union carpenter “watching his trade and his livelihood stolen from illegal immigration,” and a member of the Golden Gate Minutemen.
Sandy, 46, of San Leandro, said she’s a Democrat and a postal worker who takes a lot of guff about both from her fellow members of the Bay Area Patriots. “I think our government is wasting too much money,” she said, holding a sign that implored the president to “stop giving jobs to illegal aliens.”
“I actually have a teenager who cannot find a job,” she said.
Jean, “old enough to know better,” another Bay Area Patriots member from Redwood City, said she believes “we need to change the government, it’s rotten to the core. All the stimulus was was a payoff to Obama’s cronies, and all those ‘green jobs’ are a farce.”
“We need E-verify so we can get ride of the illegals so we can have the jobs,” she added. “We need to close our borders… and we need to clean out Washington; all those guys are socialist-Marxists.”
Lots more, after the jump…
“He speaks with what I call common sense, he address problems directly, he’s not politically devious,” she continued. “Obama talks too much about the poor, but half the poor don’t even pay taxes.”
She and her friend Helena, of San Jose, are members of the Voter Integrity Project, and accused groups such as ACORN and the Service Employees International Union of committing voting fraud on behalf of Democrats. “Instead of bringing people together, he’s dividing them, separating them,” Helena said.
Diane Wall, 66, of Novato, held a sign saying “Our grandkids can’t afford 4 more years of buffoonery.”
“This is my concern now because I have a 6-month-old grandson,” said the Bay Area Patriots member. “The poor tot’s going to be paying and paying and paying.”
Robert Dietrich, 74, of Richmond, said he was a Free Speech Movement activist in Berkeley in the 1960s and a steadfast supporter of socialism until the Berlin Wall came down “and I got to see what was actually going on behind the Iron Curtain… I found out that the liberal idea doesn’t work, government is not the answer, the less government the better.”
A small clump of Obama supporters stood apart, a short way further up Sand Hill Road.
“I was so excited to come see Obama, I missed him the last time he was here, and it’s a once in a lifetime chance for me and my daughter to see the president,” said Leslie Alperin, 54, of Berkeley, gesturing toward Lily, age “seven and three quarters.” “She wants to be a girl Obama when she grows up.”
Looking down the road toward the conservative protestors, Halperin said, “I support their right to protest and I’m happy that there’s political participation here.”
Moments later, a white-haired woman in a red “Join the Tea Party” t-shirt strolled up the road to offer the Obama supporters cookies.
Another Obama supporter, Olufunke Grace Bankole, 32, of Woodside, said the president “has a hard job and we still support him, he inherited a mess. He is doing the best he can given the problems he inherited.”
The protestors’ chants included “Hey-hey, ho ho, Obama’s got to go” and “Where are the jobs,” but they were chanting “one-term president!” as the motorcade went by.
Frank and Jessica Lonergan, of Woodside, said their daughters, Margi, 8, and Dixie, 10, got a smile and wave from the president as his limousine passed. “I think it’s very exciting to see the president in town, we wanted to give the kids a glimpse,” said Frank, 42.
Jessica, 40, glanced over at the by-then-dissipating crowd of protestors. “That’s the beauty of America, it’s freedom of speech, and that’s a good thing to expose your children to, too.”
From there, I barreled downhill to Atherton, where the president was to attend a dinner at the home of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. He arrived there at about 7:42 p.m., the motorcade passing about two dozen local residents who’d gathered on Alameda De Las Pulgas. None carried signs, and most sounded like supporters of the president.
Asked what they’d say to President Obama had they anted up the $35,800 per person to attend the dinner, Ken Ross, 68, of Atherton, replied, “we should probably start pulling out of Afghanistan – why not?”
Brad Ross, 14, said he would tell the president to “cut down on the number of troops in Afghanistan and get rid of the Bush-era tax cuts.” And his friend, Brennen Chess, 14, said he thinks “we need to reform Medicare and Medicaid, health care in general, because we’re losing a lot of dollars based on that.”
Rich, 55, of Menlo Park, said he would tell the president “to be aggressive and move toward not letting the Republicans get away with s—-.”
Daniella, 39, of Redwood City, strugged for the right metaphor, suggesting we’re all in one canoe and it’s the president’s job “to get people to paddle together.”
“A good leader brings out the best in people,” she said. “That’s what we really need. We either all are going to sink or we’re all going to swim. People need to learn how to work all together… His job is to be a coach and draw out the very best.”