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Oh, when Obama ties up the town

President Barack Obamsalutes before greeting Illinois Gov. PQuinn left as he walks off Air Force One after landing O'Hare International

President Barack Obama salutes before greeting Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn left, as he walks off Air Force One after landing at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Wednesday. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

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Updated: May 8, 2014 9:40AM



When the president comes to town, it’s a big deal. As it should be. Air Force One touches down, the president greets dignitaries, choppers downtown and a really big motorcade carries him around.

People along the route wave, take photos and tell their friends, “I just saw the president.”

Everybody’s happy.

Eh, not everybody:

jesslevins @jesslevins

Worst traffic ever in Lincoln Park due to all street closures- ugh. Thanks for coming to dinner #Obama #Chicago

On this particular trip, thousands were stuck along Lake Shore Drive and in Lincoln Park Wednesday night as an entire neighborhood was shut down so Obama could mingle with blue-chip guests who paid $10,000 for the honor.

This comment was posted on the website DNAInfo.com:

“The City of Chicago and those affiliated with President Obama need to come up with a better plan . . . Last nights traffic was a nightmare. The fact that they shut down LSD in both directions is unacceptable. It took my wife over 2 hours to go 3 miles. Our daughter was stuck at daycare in Lincoln Park with no way for us to reach her. Completely ridiculous!!”

It was not the size of Chris Christie’s Bridgegate, but it did engender a certain amount of fury.

My Sun-Times colleague Tina Sfondeles was wishing she had a helicopter instead of a car to drop her off at home.

“It took me one hour and five minutes to get home . . . At many points, I was only two miles from my home but pushed the other way because of roadblocks. People were really losing patience . . . making U-turns in the middle of the street and trying to find side streets.”

Small businesses suffered. Around 8 p.m., I stopped at a restaurant on Armitage Avenue, a street clogged with cars trying to re-route from a shutdown on Fullerton. The restaurant phone was ringing like a fire alarm with customers demanding where the heck were their orders?

“I’m so sorry,” apologized the harried woman at the register, “but the president is just blocks away and everything is blocked off.”

No consolation for someone waiting for a little fried rice.

I asked NBC correspondent John Yang about presidential tie-ups. He recalled a George H.W. Bush event in Florida in 1992 that had an interstate backed up for miles.

People really do understand that a president doesn’t travel like normal people. But Mr. Obama’s visit here had not a thing to do with governing. And everything to do with fundraising.

And what with the Supreme Court this past week giving another wet kiss to the expanding power of the American oligarchy — the .01 percenters — it’s become even more infuriating.

If you are super rich and want to throw a presidential party, do you get to shut down a neighborhood so you and your wealthy friends can mingle with the mighty?

Does Obama, the community organizer who abhors the Supreme Court’s relaxed rulings on campaign cash, not get the irony of all that?

Or does he say of the family waiting for their pepperoni pizza, “Let them eat cake?”

Email: cmarin@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CarolMarin



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