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Local Obama Fans: Little Joy on Birthday

Dozens gather for Web chat with Obama, worry about the political atmosphere ahead.

More than 40 people came from Somerset and Morris counties—even from as far as Pennsylvania—to celebrate President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday Wednesday night, joining the president virtually from a home in Morristown.

The gathering on Revere Road, organized by Morris County resident Kim Hurdman, was one of thousands that took place across the nation. It had all the halmarks of a friendly affair—a potluck feast, camaraderie, plenty of chatter among like-minded individuals. But one thing set the party apart: the opportunity to speak with Obama via a live video stream.

And as the night went on, good times often took a backseat to concerns that bad ones could be ahead, at least for those on board with the president's agenda.

The celebration—in the seat of one of New Jersey's redder counties, where Republican legislative and freeholder candidates almost always sail to easy November victories—was just the beginning of an effort to galvanize support for the 2012 election, said Hurdman, organizer for the Morris County for Obama organization. 

Most of the participants expressed passionate support for the president in the 2012 election. But some said they were worried that the recent behavior of Tea Party-associated Republicans in the recent debt-ceiling and national budget negotiations was going to continue, making it difficult for the president to realize his own vision for the country.

Throughout the negotiations, Tea Party-backed legislators—particularly freshmen members of the House of Representatives—proved the hardest for Congressional leaders to win over as they considered a variety of options for reducing the national debt. The Tea Partiers pushed for steep cuts without new taxes, and bristled at even slight suggestions of compromise; some refused to raise the nation's debt ceiling under any circumstances at all.

“I think the Tea Party is just wasting the president’s energy. He is a fine, intelligent man but he can’t really focus his full attention on moving forward because they are creating so many distractions,” said Diana Modugno, who traveled more than 50 miles from Bushkill, Penn. to be part of the event.

She said she is very disappointed in the Republican party’s behavior, especially in the last few weeks.

“It just seems that they are determined to stop him every inch of the way and, after all, he inherited this mess from the Bush-Cheney regime. Most of his energy has gone toward cleaning up their mess,” Modugno said.

She said she traveled more than 50 miles because no events were scheduled in her area.

“I really wanted to be with like-minded people. It’s very refreshing,” said Modugno.

Stefano Crema, a resident of Denville, is an Obama supporter who worked for him in 2008 campaign.

“He is a visionary, but I think he has let us down. He hasn’t been able to deliver on all of his promises. But he’s the best that we’ve got,” said Crema.

Ewa Carpenter, a resident of Morris Plains, said she had the "utmost respect for the president—and I am thoroughly disgusted with the fact that he is having trouble getting his ideas implemented."

"The Republicans have been very dishonest and they refuse to work with him,” Carpenter said.

She, too, said she was especially unhappy with the recent negotiations over the debt ceiling.

“It was like a torture chamber. It represented everything that is wrong with America,” Carpenter said.

She said ultimately, the Republicans are working against themselves.

"The Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot," Carpenter said. "The president has great wisdom and he will prevail. Anyone with a working brain will see that he is trying to do the right thing for people."

Jackie Kahle, a resident of Bernardsville said he was at the celebration to wish the president well, "but he is up against terrible odds."

Alex Naario, a resident of Whippany, who has helped out with voter registration, said he backs Obama because he believes the president can effect change in Washington.

"It hasn’t happened yet, but I believe that change will come about," said Naario, who has been unemployed for almost two years.

"Critics say that he caved into the Republicans because he extended the tax credits," he said. "It seems that the Republicans just want the poor and the middle class to take the brunt of the responsibility. They want tax credits, but they have had tax credits for 10 years now—and where has it gotten us? I think it’s pretty clear, we need to end tax credits for millionaires."

Rudy Grodowski of Bernardsville said he is worried about the 2012 election, and that the Tea Party could land a candidate in the White House.

“So far all they have done is use a technique of intimidation on the nation which risks the national well being for the benefit of special interest groups,” Grodowski said. “I think Obama has shown that he is trying to be fair and reasonably bi-partisan.”

And Grodowski said the health care reform championed by Obama could be in danger  as well.

"I hope that we don’t go in the direction of repealing the health care act," he said. "It was put in place to help people who lose their jobs and can’t pay thousands of dollars in Cobra medical insurance bills and protect people with pre-existing conditions."

Hurdman, who began working on the Obama campaign in 2007, said she is committed to helping the president get re-elected.

She spoke to the group about a comment made by Tom Brokaw recently.

“He said the Tea Party got mad, then they got organized, and they got elected. So, good for them. Actually, I think they learned this from Democrats during the 2008 campaign,” Hurdman said. “Well, now it’s time for us to get mad again, and get organized and win the election."

CoolBreeze August 09, 2011 at 05:07 PM
All you have to do is google ku klux klan and Democrat Senate and you get a bunch of stuff about Robert Byrd and the history of that horrible organization being the terrorist wing of the Democrat party. Clearly the vast, vast majority of democrats are not, nor have they ever been a member of or supporter of this horrible, racist organization. So how can you draw a conclusion about Tea Partiers being racist by the results of a similar search? I also think this goes a long way in proving you can't rely on a search engine (or the internet) as the basis for an intelligent argument.
Hank Heller August 09, 2011 at 05:28 PM
Mr. Grant I am not employing any tactic. I have never seen nor heard a racist comment at a Tea Party event. I have been at a number of them and I have never experienced what you say you have read about and seen on youtube videos. I believe some small number of misguided people may behave poorly at one time or other, but that does not mean the Tea Party either accepts or condones racism. At the Uni-Tea event in Philadephia most of the speakers (and very excellent speakers they were) were people of color. They spoke fervently about why they did not agree with Mr. Obama's policies and directions. I have seen people of every stripe in the Tea Party tent, including union members, Democrats, libertarians, gay people etc. I suppose there might be some Tea Party organizations that would not meet my own measurement mores. So what? I know there must be Democratic organizations that would meet my own criteria for decency, and some that would not pass muster. Our country is drowning in politicians who are commited to "gift-giving" which never comes from their own pocket, just yours and mine. Instead of attacking the fiscal problems of our country, your team, including Obama, is spending huge energy in trying to deflect responsibility away from the guy who has the job to get us back on sound footing, and trying to affix the blame onto the Tea Party. How will that solve our problems? The Tea Party is tiny. Our only power is that we speak straight and you don't Hank Heller
Dan Grant August 09, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Robert Byrd's association is well documented as was the segregationist ( Later Republican) party leader Strom Thurman. Of course Byrd apologised for his Klan Activities. Thurman fathered a black child while supporting segregation. That is all documented history. The Democratic racists in the South moved to either independent status or became Republican. Those were different times. The Tea Party is today and if their leaders will not acknowledge that some in their Party are racist and use racist rants and posters and distance themselves from that then they are just as bad. Where are the Tea Party Leaders that condemn the tactics? All you get from them is denial.
Maxim Sapozhnikov August 09, 2011 at 05:50 PM
Racist past of the Dems are well documented. In fact, you don't have to go any further than Wikipedia. Are there any DOCUMENTED evidence of the Tea Party's racism that you could refer the forum to, or you are just blowing hot air to push the DNC meme?
Hank Heller August 09, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Mr. Grant I do not claim to be a Tea Party leader, but Jeff Weingarten, the leader of the Morristown Tea Party Organization did respond to you and let you know that you were not accurate in your allegations. Please refer back to his blog. It is clear that you are working hard to push responsibility onto whomever you can, with the exception of Obama and the Democratic Party. What a weak excuse for a national policy! The Tea Party, which are small, independent enclaves of citizens, are working hard toward greater diversity, more inclusiveness and a larger dialog. The fact is that Obama is incompetent in his current job and no amount of blaming Bush, the Republicans or the Tea Party will grow the skills of leadership in him any time soon. The American people got fooled once. I do not expect them to be fooled again by the same guy and his pals. This is a complaint against weak leadership, poor character, lousy planning and inept governing. Nowhere do you read about skin color or ethnicity. That is all in YOUR head! Hank Heller Hank Heller

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