Gwyneth Paltrow sat next to Jimmy Fallon, with Anna Wintour and Pharrell Williams sitting nearby. But tucked into the back of Harvey Weinstein’s basement last night was one face that hadn’t been seen with President Obama at any of his New York fund-raisers so far this year: Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“I’m lucky enough, and he knows it’s true, to say that I was one of Governor Cuomo’s earliest supporters,” Weinstein told the crowd.
“Yes, yes,” Cuomo called out. “Angel investor.”
“You are an angel,” Weinstein gushed.
“That’s the first time anybody’s ever called him that,” Obama said.
The room burst into laughter.
Standing in Weinstein’s basement, Obama said his troubles are like the ones facing Cuomo.
“When I ran in 2008, I think that a lot of folks believed we elect Obama and suddenly we’re going to fix politics in Washington,” Obama said. “And Andrew is familiar with this, because everybody figures, well, we’re going to fix politics in Albany.”
“And then it turns out that there are a lot of bad habits that have been built up over time, and we’re also a big, diverse country and not everybody agrees with me; not everybody agrees with the folks who live in Manhattan,” he said, drawing laughter from the rich celebrities that filled the room. “West of here,” he said. “You guys may not be familiar with it.”
The comparison was something of a stretch. Obama is struggling to recharge the national economy amid an increasingly deadlocked capitol split along party lines, while Cuomo, for his part, isn’t struggling much.
He passed a budget without raising taxes or destroying social service programs, and passed a landmark bill legalizing same-sex marriage, turning the state government in Albany from “dysfunctional” to hyperactive, in under seven months. (Cuomo attended the fundraiser as an invited guest, and did not pay, according to a source.)
Before leaving, Obama
likened himself to referenced one more figure. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I think that we forget when he was alive there was nobody who was more vilified, nobody who was more controversial, nobody who was more despairing at times,” he said. “But what he understood, what kept him going, was that the arc of moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”
While attending a fund-raiser the night before in Manhattan for Rep. Charlie Rangel, I asked Cuomo — who has not left the state since becoming governor in January — if he would travel beyond New York to help Obama.
“I would help the president in any way that I can,” Cuomo said, on the third floor of the Crown Plaza hotel. “So, any way that I can help him, I will.”
Back inside Weinstein’s five-story red brick townhouse on Bank Street, was one more figure key to electing Obama. Patrick Gaspard stood in a dark suit and solid black tie with his arms folded.
Gaspard was the White House political director during the first half of Obama’s first term, before moving to the Democratic National Committee to become their executive director. Before that, Gaspard was head of political strategy for the New York-based healthcare workers union, 1199 SEIU.
The union strongly backed Cuomo in his 2006 race for attorney general and 2010 race for governor. The two men recently attended a fund-raiser in Manhattan for the president. The Daily News recently quoted an unnamed source who said Cuomo “wants him [Gaspard] back in New York after the president’s re-elected.”
[Note: This item was updated to correct and expand Obama’s remarks about Martin Luther King, Jr.]