President Barack Obama said Thursday that bringing change had been more difficult than a lot of us expected, after a group donors interrupted a campaign speech to protest in song the detention of the soldier that allegedly released a trove of government cables which eventually were obtained and disseminated by Wikileaks.
(See Video of the Protest Below)
Obama has previously defended the military's treatment of Private First Class Bradley Manning, 23, and did not directly address the issue when confronted by the protesters.
The interruption came at a fundraising event at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, where tickets were reportedly $35,800 each. There were 15 tables with 10 chairs each, although not all were full, according to a pool report.
In the middle of Obama's remarks, a woman in a white suit stood up and said the group with her had written a song, according to a transcript provided by the White House.
According to a pool report, the other people seated at the table and the woman - later identified as Naomi Pitcairn of Oakland - began singing, referencing Manning's detention in a small cell 23 hours a day, and saying it violated constitutional amendments related to legal procedures and cruel and unusual punishment.
That's very nice. Nancy, did you plan this? Obama said, directing his comments House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA.
The lawmaker had a look on her face, as she stared at the singing group, that definitely said she did not, according a pool report by Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal.
Manning was charged in July of 2010 for unauthorized computer access and transmitting classified information to an unauthorized party, was changed in March of 2011 with aiding the enemy. He has been kept in a maximum security prison.
The released Wikileaks cables have garnered widespread media attention
On Tuesday, the Department of Defense transferred Manning from a facility at Quantico in Virginia to a correctional facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Officials said the move was done because Manning's presence was no longer needed in Washington DC to be evaluated by a sanity board to determine if he is fit to stand trial.
Manning's lawyer David Coombs says Manning has been held for 23 hours at a time in solitary confinement and on some occasions, Manning was forced to strip naked in his cell and was forced to sleep several hours in humiliation.
About 40 seconds of the interruption was captured on camera by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci, who posted a video to the newspaper's website.
Pitcairn, wearing the white suit, stood up as she continued to sing and was approached by another, unidentified woman. Pitcairn gathered her belongings and began to make her way out of the area.
That was a nice song. You guys have much better voices than I have, Obama said.
Thank you, we worked hard on it, Pitcairn said.
Free Bradley Manning. I'm leaving, she said.
Okay, thank you very much, Obama said, as the video ended. Two other protesters left, while the rest remained seated and clapped at the end of Obama's speech, according to the pool report.
In the White House transcript, Obama continued.
Now where was I? It did break my flow I've got to admit, Obama said.
Now, there's an example of creativity that we saw during the campaign. You know, it wasn't always convenient but it's part of what made 2008 special. And what's happened -- and I think that was indicative of that performance as well -- is, is that over the last two and a half years, change turned out to be tougher than a lot of us expected. Right?
Obama Defends Accomplishments
Obama went on to remark about the nation's recent recession, 8 millions jobs lost, the housing crisis and potential of a financial meltdown. He also described energy challenges.
The President defended his accomplishments in office.
I could not be prouder of our track record over the last two and a half years, he said. He remarked on yanking this country out of a great depression, passing healthcare reform, appointing the first Latina to the Supreme Court and investments in education and clean energy.
But we've got so much more work to do, he said. And we're not going to be able to make those changes unless that same spirit that drove us in 2008 drives us in 2012.
A transcript of the song provided by Lee is below:
Dear Mr. President we honor you today sir
Each of us brought you $5,000
It takes a lot of Benjamins to run a campaign
I paid my dues, where's our change?
We'll vote for you in 2012, yes that's true
Look at the Republicans - what else can we do
Even though we don't know if we'll retain our liberties
In what you seem content to call a free society
Yes it's true that Terry Jones is legally free
To burn a people's holy book in shameful effigy
But at another location in this country
Alone in a 6x12 cell sits Bradley
23 hours a day is night
The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing ain't right
We paid our dues, where's our change?