NEW YORK — When you’re asking for money, it’s probably a good idea to flatter your benefactors. And so it was Thursday evening that President Obama gave a shout-out to filmmaker Spike Lee.
“I’m not sure this has been reported by the press,” the president recounted during a fundraiser at Lee’s New York townhouse. “On my first official date with [wife] Michelle, I took Michelle to see ‘Do the Right Thing.’”
Lee, who had heard Obama tell the story before about his 1989 film, interjected: “You remember what I said?. . .I said, good thing you didn’t choose ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’”
Lee cracked himself up, and the 60 guests, including songstress Mariah Carey and former NBA player Allan Houston, laughed, too. Mission accomplished for the president, who raised in the neighborhood of $1 million at the event.
All told, Obama held four fundraisers in New York on Thursday, flying here after unveiling a new proposal in Orlando, related to boosting tourism.
While his four remaining Republican rivals held another televised debate in South Carolina, Obama was filling his war chest by talking with influential Jewish voters, yukking it up with celebrities like Lee and even breaking into a line of the Rev. Al Green classic “Let’s Stay Together” at an appearance at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater.
“I’m,” Obama began singing, leaning into the microphone on the stage, with Green, who had performed along with India Aire, in the audience, “so in love with you.”
The Apollo crowd began cheering. “The Sandman did not come out,” Obama said of Howard “Sandman”Sims, the late vaudeville tap dancer who was seen on “Showtime at the Apollo” variety show ushering failed performers off the stage.
“Don’t worry, Rev.,” Obama said, looking toward Green. “I cannot sing like you. But I just wanted to show my appreciation.”
In his remarks, Obama touted his accomplishments , including ending the Iraq war, bailing out the auto industry and passing health care reform, as he has begun to do recently in advance of next week’s State of the Union address.
Before the Jewish donors at Daniel Restaurant in mid-town, Obama defended his Israel policy, saying his administration has been dedicated to keeping that country secure. He also defended his policies against Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, saying the multilateral sanctions imposed have wreaked havoc on Iran’s economy and put pressure on the ruling regime.
“When I came in office Iran was united, but the world was divided,” Obama said. “But now we have a world united in saying to Iran ‘you’ve got to change your ways.’”
Looking toward the election, Obama set up a stark contrast with the GOP and called on his supporters to energize his campaign with the same enthusiasm that carried him four years ago.
“I’m absolutely confident we’re going to win this thing,” Obama said. “If we’re working hard, if we’ve got as much passion and energy and focus as we did in 2008, we’re going to win.”
Update 10:43 a.m.: Obama’s musical break was a nod to Green’s soulful ‘70s work, which included the hits “Let’s Stay Together’’ and “I’m Still in Love with You.’’ By midmorning Friday, both ‘’Al Green’’ and “Let’s Stay Together’’ were trending topics on Twitter.