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The Nation

Billionaire introduces Obama in Omaha

Warren Buffett says the Democrat would spread the wealth.

August 16, 2007|John McCormick | Chicago Tribune

OMAHA — Billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett stood next to Sen. Barack Obama at a country club fundraiser here Wednesday evening, praising the Illinois Democrat and calling for a federal tax system that would charge the rich more.

Buffett, who can move markets with a few syllables and is increasingly trying to do the same in politics, introduced the presidential candidate and his wife, Michelle, at an event that attracted about 200 people.

"He's not only a leader, but he can lead us to the right place," said Buffett, who also told a racy joke and made a few offhand remarks about the sagging stock market. "Barack is here to increase the abundance, but to spread it around a little more so that it is inclusive prosperity."

Buffett, who joked that it was "lonely" being a Democrat in Nebraska, said he first met Obama about three years ago and that the two had "had a lot of time to talk." The Wall Street wizard also said it was time to "fire the administration."

Obama responded with plenty of praise and some humility. "Not only am I a less-successful investor, but my jokes aren't as funny," Obama said, later calling Buffett "an example of what's best in this country." Obama said that he got plenty of advice on the campaign trail, but that "Warren Buffett is one of those people" he listened to. The senator also ribbed the affluent audience for the relatively low price of admission. "Normally we charge extra when Michelle is here, so all of you are getting a bargain," he said.

Donors gave between $500 and $2,300. About 35 people who gave the higher amount or helped raise money from others met first with Buffett and Obama in a smaller room.

After his speech, Obama answered a few audience questions. The first was from a man who asked why people should support him instead of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, whom Buffett has also supported.

"We are blessed with a very strong field on the Democratic side," said Obama, as a smiling Buffett looked on. "I think she's smart. I think she's tough. I think she is capable. I think she would be a capable president."

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