Frustrated commuters are calling for an investigation and wishing they voted for John McCain, but chances are the traffic snarl that accompanied President Obama’s trek to Hancock Park on Tuesday night will be chalked up as just another of many hassles in the evening commute.
Still, in a city that practically invented road rage, there are few better ways to trigger ire than an unexpected rush hour road closure, and it certainly didn’t help that Obama was going to and from not a public event, but a private fund-raiser with well-heeled donors.
Olympic Boulevard was sealed off for hours as Obama trekked to the home of John Wells shortly after 6 p.m. and returned just before 8 p.m. The created a chokehold on parallel streets, including Wilshire Boulevard through the Miracle Mile district.
Exacerbating the problem was the fact that commuters had no warning: The Secret Service does not announce the route of the president’s movements in advance.
Stephanie Mar, communications deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the Hancock Park area (he also was present at the event), said their office had received just two inquiries, but she said that even if they did, they have “no jurisdiction over the president and his affairs.”
“In the totem pole of power, we don’t tell the president what to do,” she said.
Even though he was raising money at a private fund-raiser, she said that his visit did have benefits: Local officials got some face time with the president. “I think it’s a good thing that the president comes and sees our city.”
The Los Angeles Police Department also received complaints, but they also directed calls to the Secret Service.
Max Milien, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said that their first priority is to ensure the safety of the president. Nevertheless, he said, “we work closely with state and local law enforcement” in planning routes.
“We try to minimize, as best as possible, any inconveniece to the public,” he said.
Update: This is unrelated to the traffic, but the GOP is mocking Obama’s fund-raising swing through the West by invoking flight attendant Steven Slater’s infamous jump off an inflatable exit slide.