Biden, Obama, and Clinton Unite for Historic DNC Fundraiser in New York City

The three presidents conversed on a panel moderated by Stephen Colbert.

The Democratic Party brought out two of its most renowned presidents for a night of comedy, music, and political star power on Thursday, (March 28) in a record-breaking fundraiser to support President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign.

At what the Biden campaign has proclaimed as “the most successful political fundraiser in American history,” the Democratic National Committee collected more than $25 million in a star-studded affair at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. More than 5,000 attendees filled the historic venue’s seats to see comedian and television host Stephen Colbert sit down with President Biden, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton to speak to them about their time in the Oval Office and the stakes of the November presidential election against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Before the main event, attendees were treated to a series of brief live performances. Comedian and actress Mindy Kaling served as host, sharing a few jokes to intermittently offer her “Gen Z energy.” Several stars of the music world came by to offer one-song performances: Lizzo opened with her hit “About Damn Time,” Queen Latifah rocked her hip-hop classic “U.N.I.T.Y.,” and performances by Ben Platt, Cynthia Ervo, and Lea Michele followed.

After the musical performances, the three Democratic presidents appeared on the stage, lifted from a rising platform to thunderous “four more years” chants from the audience, before fielding questions from Colbert. 

Biden spent much of his mic time on the offense toward Trump, criticizing the former president’s plans for “absolute autonomy,” his denial of global warming, and his desires to get rid of reproductive rights. “All the things he’s doing are so old,” he quipped. Obama and Clinton, meanwhile, focused on why Biden deserves a second term, while sharing some of their own experiences as Commander in Chief to provide context for their opinions. 

“It’s not just the negative case against the presumptive nominee on the other side. It’s the positive case for somebody who's done an outstanding job,” Obama said. He referenced job growth, capping prescription drug prices, and investments in clean energy among Biden’s accomplishments during his first term. 

“Joe is absolutely right, that we've got not just a [Republican] nominee, but frankly, a party and an entire infrastructure that increasingly seems unconcerned with the essence of America: the idea of self governance, the possibilities of us operating and bridging our differences and moving forward,” Obama continued. “But we also have a positive story to tell about the future.”

About 14 minutes into the panel, attendees scattered around the crowd began to shout protests about America’s role in Israel in the war in Gaza, continuing similar remonstrations that preceded the event outside of the building. Colbert responded by asking Biden about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Biden insisted that the protestors be allowed to stay (scattered protests continued throughout the night), and stated he’s been working with other countries that are prepared to recognize Israel, and insisted on a two-state solution. 

“There are too many innocent victims, Israeli and Palestinian. We have to get more food, medicine, and supplies to Palestinians,” Biden said. “You can’t forget that Israel was in a position where their very existence was at stake. They were massacred. … But, we must in fact stop the effort that is resulting in significant deaths of innocent civilians, particularly children.”

Obama said that his measured response to the issue is what made him choose Biden as his running mate, and what makes him ideal for office now.

“One of the realities of the presidency is that the world has a lot of joy and beauty, but it also has a lot of tragedy and cruelty. I think people understandably oftentimes want to feel a certain purity in terms of how those decisions are made,” he said. “[Biden] has moral conviction and clarity. willing to acknowledge that the world is complicated, and that he's willing to listen to all sides in this debate, and every other debate and trying to see if we can find common ground.”

Other points of conversation included Biden recounting his thoughts during the January 6 insurrection at the capital, Clinton explaining the time that it takes before the public can actually feel an improving economy, and the impact that Trump’s presidency had on the international perception of America.

The Biden campaign heralded the fundraiser as “the most successful political fundraiser in American history.”

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