In an evening that began with karaoke in a Brooklyn restaurant, New York City politicians, political activists and community residents gathered, singing to the music of the Whispers, Sister Sledge and Larry Graham and cheering at President Obama at every turn.
It was a gathering that brought together some of the biggest names in New York City politics, including John C. Liu, the city’s comptroller, as well as members of the state's Assembly, State Senate and City Council. Anyone expecting an impartial crowd was certainly disappointed.
Indeed, the Brooklyn Exposure restaurant in the largely African-American and Caribbean Crown Heights section of the borough is arguably perched in the most partisan enclave of a highly blue state. And, once the karaoke segment of the evening came to an end, the crowd made no secret of its affection for the president.
The 90-minute debate between the president and Mitt Romney centered on foreign policy, primarily dealing with the Middle East and China. While those are countries worlds away from central Brooklyn, the more than 75 people in the restaurant seemed riveted by the discussion, whose themes stretched from Libya and Syria to Iran’s nuclear muscle.
The crowd roared with delight with the president’s insistence that America’s strength on the international stage was dependent on its force at home, particularly in making advances in education. In addition, his references to his administration’s bailout of the automobile industry drew huge applause.
Any time the president took a swipe at the former Massachusetts governor, the gatherers shrieked with delight. The cheering was especially wild when Obama chided Romney’s views on foreign trade, saying the former governor knew quite a bit on the subject “because you invested in companies that shipped jobs overseas.”
The decision to couple the debate with karaoke was made to attract more people to the event. “This is an area where voter participation is low,” said Karim Camara, a New York assemblyman in whose district the debate event took place. “We thought it would be a good idea to draw people through entertainment and try to attract them to the political process.”
The reviews were unanimous in this highly Democratic throng. “I thought the people saw a clear contrast between someone with proven leadership and someone who says what they have to say for their own aggrandizement,” said Camara.
“There was more of a stark contrast tonight than we’ve seen in the other debates,” said Camara, who began the evening with a rendition of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” during the karaoke hour.
However, it was Liu, the New York City comptroller, who seemed to speak for the entire audience at the restaurant. “Obama is a very well-rounded president,” Liu said. “He’s a great leader and he clearly hasn’t forgotten how to mop the floor — in this case with Mitt Romney.”
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(Photo: Jonathan P. Hicks/BET)
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