Chicago's Susan Crown, Influential Obama '08 Supporter, Campaigns for Romney '12

Chicago's Susan Crown, Influential Obama '08 Supporter, Campaigns for Romney '12

Businesswoman and philanthropist Susan Crown, a former Obama supporter and a member of one of Chicago’s most influential families, told an audience of over 300 women and men, “In the midst of the Obama administration, I became profoundly disappointed, disillusioned and actually a little angry.”

Democrats, Republicans and self-described independents recently came together to hear how one of President Obama’s own prominent supporters is now using her considerable talent and energy to get Gov. Mitt Romney elected the next President of the United States. They gathered at a modest complimentary luncheon in the ballroom of a hotel in Naperville, Illinois sponsored by the DuPage Business Council. The event was a “Women in Leadership” forum, where Crown gave a brief introduction, then took questions from the audience. Outside the ballroom, four self-employed women from a neighboring suburb sold red-white-blue elephant earrings, US flag pins, GOP/elephant jewelry, and t-shirts with glittery “Romney” lettering.

“I am pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and don’t think the government belongs in a lot of those issues,” Crown said.

So how could a woman with this sort of background on “social issues”, who gave money to Obama’s 2008 campaign, and who worked with him on the Annenberg Challenge board support Gov. Romney, who is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage? 

Crown spent nearly one hour answering questions from the audience to fully explain her conversion.

Her reasons and responses were wide-ranging, thoughtful, brutally honest and humorous.

OBAMA’S TREATMENT OF ISRAEL “MADE ME MAD; I’M SO EMBARRASSED BY OUR CURRENT PRESIDENT”

Top on Crown’s list is the way President Obama has been treating Israel.  

“In 2011, when Barack Obama suggested that Israel return to 1967 borders–the country is about the size of Rhode Island–it was hard fought, hard won. And the idea of telling all the people who have who lost loved ones in the 1967 war, that we were going to have a ‘do-over’, really made me mad.”

Crown was referring to President Obama’s speech at the State Department in May 2011. There he called for a Palestinian state using boundary lines before the Six Day War of 1967, where Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria, capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank and Golan Heights. As Obama stated last year: “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” For Crown and other Jewish citizens who are supporting Gov. Romney, that declaration, which came the day before Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to arrive in the US for talks with Obama, was unacceptable.

In an interview with longtime Chicago writer, Carol Felsenthal, Crown told Chicago Magazine “the day that really made a difference for me was the day he suggested that Israel go back to 1967 borders. That infuriated me. That was the day I switched candidates.” 

Fast forward to September 2012, when Netanyahu asked for a meeting with President Obama. Instead of receiving the Israeli Prime Minister, Obama accepted other invitations: to attend a campaign fundraiser hosted by music mogul Jay-Z and his superstar wife Beyonce at a sports club in New York City, where people paid $40,000 to attend; to appear on TV entertainment programs “Late Show with David Letterman”; and to join the hosts of the talk show “The View.” When Letterman asked Obama what the national debt was ($16 trillion and rapidly climbing, according to the National Debt Clock), the President casually responded that he did not know. However, he was able to inform the women on “The View” that he was their “eye candy.” 

“I am so embarrassed that our current President, instead of taking a meeting with Netanyahu, is going to New York and hanging out with Jay-Z and Beyonce.” The audience erupted in applause.

She continued: “Netanyahu is not the most uncomplicated or simple man to deal with and that’s a given. Netanyahu’s angst is about the existential threat to the state of Israel. Iran has declared that destroying Israel is at the top of its list. It’s equipping itself with nuclear arms for ‘energy’ purposes.’ And why Jay-Z and Beyonce are your priority? I don’t get it.” 

OBAMA’S DANGEROUS “MIXED MESSAGES” TO ISRAEL; DEBACLE IN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

As for her fellow Jewish voters who support Obama, Crown is mystified.

“I really can’t speak for all members of the tribe–they are all over the place. I don’t really understand anyone who really cares about the survival of the state of Israel or who really wants things to be smoothed over in the Middle East, how they can vote for a candidate who is sending mixed messages, open to interpretation. Which is to me the worst of all worlds.”

Those mixed messages are key to her disappointment in Obama: “He is sending mixed messages in a volatile and increasingly violent world. And America is being perceived as weaker and weaker. And in a more dangerous place.”

With the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the uprisings at the U.S. embassy in Cairo and beyond, Crown sees the need for new leadership.

“It is really critical that we have friends in a part of the world that has huge numbers of unemployed poor people, an oppressive religious society, and no access to Internet or basic media. Those are considered the three most important factors in violent eruptions.”

Crown knows of what she speaks. She is Co-Chair of CARE’s national conference on global poverty. She sees Israel being the “Rock of Gibraltar” and playing a role.

“The United States does not have a more important ally in the world. It is our only reliable and capable ally in the Middle East, which, as we can see, is disintegrating, volatile, fractionalized. It is our only partner on the ground there. Not only that, but we share a lot of aspirational goals about democracy, about opportunity.”

The last four years under President Obama have tattered the United States’ reputation on the world stage. Crown related a conversation between Gov. Romney and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. When asked how the US is being perceived around the world, Kissinger responded with one word: weak.

That weakness was on full display at the United Nations when President Obama tried to sell the notion that the attacks were the result of an amateur’s short video, which makes a caricature of Islam’s prophet Mohammed. Shockingly, Obama refused to recognize even the possibility that al-Qaeda was responsible.  

Yet Libya’s own President Mohammed Magarief told NBC’s Ann Curry that it was a “pre-planned act of terrorism” and that the movie had “nothing to do with this attack.”   

THE PHONY “WAR ON WOMEN, WAR ON MIDDLE CLASS, WAR ON DOGS” and  “47% OUTRAGE”

When an audience member asked about the Obama campaign’s attempt to attach the “war on women” label on Romney, Crown’s critique was swift–but it didn’t stop there.

“This idea that there is a ‘war on women’, a ‘war on the middle class’, a ‘war on dogs’ (laughter from the audience) is David Axelrod at work.”

Given the latest emails Obama’s close advisor and campaign director, David Axlerod, has sent out, Crown is spot on. In fact, there has been a tinge of desperation to the daily missives the Obama campaign sends as it tries to navigate a sinking ship through a sea of failed and false narratives.

Recently, Axelrod used examples of Obama’s mother dying of cancer and his own daughter’s epilepsy to elicit donations.  In an an email sent the day before the first Presidential debate, Axelrod actually used “Barack and Michelle’s” wedding anniversary to solicit more money. His campaign did something similar during the summer, asking couples who were getting married (or having an anniversary or birthday) to contribute to the Obama campaign in lieu of giving and getting gifts.  

Crown sees through all the desperation and says Obama’s claim of a GOP “war on women” is contrived.

“It’s a construct,” she says. While the Obama camp would like Americans to believe the GOP has a reproductive “war on women” (see the use of radical activist Sandra Fluke at the Democratic National Convention, where she fabricated the claim that the GOP wants to “control birth control”), Crown sees the “war on women” being an economic one.

“I believe that the war on women is really an economic war. And I would not say it’s being waged by the Romney administration. I think it’s a very convenient catchphrase. When I talk to women their real concern is in putting the pieces together in their lives. The average household since Obama took office has decreased annual income by an average of $4000.”

While Crown is “very much pro choice”, she says “my priorities have been completely rejiggered. They have to be. We’ve got a $16 trillion debt. We don’t know if there’s going to be Medicare there for us. So I think the ‘war on women’ is a construct. I think it’s been effective in that it reaches people who are stuck in sort of the old mold of thinking about what our priorities are.”

She respects the fact that for Romney/Ryan, the economy is the priority.

“Our primary issue is the economy. It’s a double-dip recession and a terrible economy. Companies are afraid to make investments. They are hanging on to cash. They are not quite sure what’s going to drop next. Europe? Greece?

“The middle class issue is front and center of all those. When we have a thriving economy, when people can get loans, when people can get jobs, when people can have the dignity of providing for their family, we have a stronger middle class and a pathway out of poverty.”

The businesswoman and Mother of two says she is also troubled by Obama’s aversion to free markets and the “not so benign neglect of the deficit.”

“I do not think Barack Obama has ever taken an accounting class. (laughter and applause from the audience.)

“I believe–like obviously most of you do–that capitalism is an incredibly efficient system. And it works. And it really works in the United States to carry people from a current economic standing to a better economic place. And what we have now is a government that is trying to govern more than 16% of the economy with the new health care law. And it should just stay out of it. My view is that the middle class will be best served by an unencumbered and promoted economy.”

“I don’t think he appreciates the genius of capitalism (applause). And he will do what he can do to interfere rather than let it operate. And I think that is going to hurt a lot of people.”

Part of Gov. Romney’s campaign strategy is to direct this message to Independents and voters who are still undecided, rather than to the roughly 47% who are dependent to some extent on the federal government. While the Obama campaign tried mightily to twist Gov. Romney’s comment to insinuate he “doesn’t care” about “the 47%”, Crown points out the 47% comment referred to a campaign strategy which targets only those in the electorate who are winnable. 

“What the governor was saying–which has been misinterpreted by the press–is…that a certain large percentage–47% or so will vote for Obama. And another large percentage 47% will vote for him. So his point was 5 or 10% of the electorate–one of the narrowest margins anywhere–will be deciding the election. So, independents and people who haven’t made up their mind are really the target. It’s not that he doesn’t care about the 47% of the population, it’s that he’s not going to target them in his ads and things like that. Because he knows where they stand politically. So there’s no disparagement. And that characterization–it strikes me as really strange for a guy who has spent all his life helping others.”

THE MILITARY

When a Mother of a soldier stood up and asked how Gov. Romney would handle the Obama administration’s plan to cut military spending, Crown acknowledged she was not an expert. However, Obama’s cuts–cuts his own Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called “dangerous” and that “would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families and our ability to protect the nation”–“blows my mind.”  It would handicap the soldiers who are “performing this extraordinary service–which is as much international development as it is peace keeping.” 

WHY SHE SUPPORTS ROMNEY

By her own admission, Crown has never been directly involved in politics. Her resume reveals that her time has been spent in other endeavors: Vice President of Henry Crown & Company, a Chicago-based investment firm and Chairman/Founder of SCE, a social investment organization that connects talent and innovation with market forces to drive social change. SCE is now working on the development and distribution of digital media to help children learn skills necessary for the 21st Century workplace and civic life.

Additionally, Crown recently co-chaired CARE’s national conference on global poverty, advocated for legislation on food security programs and global warming, and is a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

But when her husband introduced her to Gov. Romney last year, she was sold.

“For the first time in my life I felt: what can we do for this guy? How do we get him in office? This is a quality of human being that doesn’t normally subject themselves to this kind of grueling and brutal political process. And since that time, I have been working as hard as I can for Mitt.”

Crown respects Romney’s record as a leader in both the public and private sectors: as Governor of Massachusetts and as CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, which he successfully turned around after it was sullied by scandal. Romney refused to take a salary if the Olympics did not make a profit. It did. They gave him the $250,000 designated salary. He then gave it to charity.

Perhaps Romney’s ability and plans for turning around the current Obama-soured economy is what further cements Crown’s solid endorsement. She noted that Romney’s guiding principle for the economy is “a rising tide lifts all boats”, a classic free market outcome.

On a personal level, she recounted several instances where Romney dropped what was on his own plate in life to help those around him. One case in point: a colleague at Bain Capital whose child was missing. Romney shut down the office and formed a team of investigators to find her.

“I have been blessed in my life to work with some of the most capable mentors and leaders. And I think I can spot them at this point. He is extraordinary. He is smart. Capable. Focused. Driven. Principled. Humane. Clear. He’s a gentleman. And to have a person of his quality? We ought to jump on this opportunity to get someone of his quality elected.”  

The audience again erupted in applause.

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