Obama heckled over Manning treatment in San Francisco

In videos from a California fundraiser, protesters "serenade" the president -- and he says Manning "broke the law"

Published April 22, 2011 9:01PM (EDT)

Two videos of President Obama that emerged from a Thursday San Francisco fundraiser have caused ripples in the media today. Both address the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning.

In the first, Obama is "serenaded" by a group of Democratic National Committee fundraiser attendees (who paid $105,000 altogether to hear his remarks). The hecklers, some holding "Free Bradley Manning" signs, perform a song of their own composition, on the theme of their disappointment in Obama. Chorus: "We paid our dues, where's our change?"

 A significant portion of the song deals specifically with the treatment of Pfc. Manning: 

Yes it's true that Terry Jones is legally free

To burn a people's holy book in shameful effigy

But at another location in this country

Alone in a 6x12 cell sits Bradley

23 hours a day is night

The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing ain't right

We paid our dues, where's our change? 

Obama appears unruffled by the incident, deeming the interruption an "example of creativity"; the protesters, several of whom proceed to voice open admiration for the president, eventually stop singing as their leader, Naomi Pitcairn, is escorted from the room (some using the pause after their performance to tell the president they how much they "love" him).

The second, more contentious video captures an offstage conversation between Obama and several attendees after the fundraiser. In the video, Obama briefly discusses the case against Pfc. Manning. 

 According to a transcript pieced together by Forbes' Andy Greenberg (the video’s sound quality is poor), Obama says: "I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source. That’s not how ...  the world works ... I have to abide by certain classified information. If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law ... We're a nation of laws. We don't individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate ... [Manning] broke the law."

By Emma Mustich

Emma Mustich is a Salon contributor. Follow her on Twitter: @emustich.

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