RANCHO SANTA FE, CA., June 29, 2011 – Who wants to have dinner with the President of the United States? That dream can be yours! Have you received your personal invitation from the President yet?
I received mine via e-mail on June 15th. Vice President Biden followed up with a message of his own on June 21st. Then, the President’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, felt the need to send a subsequent e-mail, just in case I hadn’t read the other two.
The Vice President’s e-mail mentioned that the President and he have a routine. They get together “almost every Friday,” but as Vice President Biden said, “all I get is lunch.”
President Obama must have “gotten wind” of the Vice President’s comment because the President released a video that said, “We’re setting another place at the table for Joe Biden, who wants to join us.” It’s gratifying that the President found a way to make the Vice President almost seem relevant!
The President went on to say, “and to use one of his (Vice President Biden’s) favorite expressions, ‘That’s a big deal!’” It’s an even bigger deal that the President had the good sense not to quote the Vice President directly.
During President Obama’s 2008 campaign, we were often reminded about how our nation had been embarrassed on the world stage by the behavior of outgoing-President George W. Bush. We were promised “Change.” Who would have thought that the slogan applied to the cost of a chance to dine with the President? And we’re talking “chump change” at that.
“Watch the President’s video, and then donate $5 or more to be automatically entered for the chance to have dinner with him.”
That’s what the general release said. I feel particularly honored because the President, in his “personal” e-mail to me, offered me the same deal in return for a $3 donation. I’ve always suspected that he might be fond of me. There can no longer be any doubt!
Just in case you didn’t receive your invitation yet, here’s the text from the one that I received, plus, a “common sense” interpretation of what the President was really thinking.
“I’ve set aside time for four supporters like you to join me for dinner.”
TRANSLATION: One of my campaign strategists told me we could raise hundreds of millions of dollars if I’d lower myself to this ploy.
“Most campaigns fill their dinner guest lists primarily with Washington lobbyists and special interests.”
TRANSLATION: I already met with the “high rollers” at the White House before I even filed to run for a second term, and I will continue to do so on a regular basis until November 6, 2012.
“We didn’t get here doing that, and we’re not going to start now. We’re running a different kind of campaign. We don’t take money from Washington lobbyists or special-interest PACs — we never have, and we never will.
TRANSLATION: I got over 66 million votes in the last election. Multiply that by $5 and you’ve got $330 million in cash. That’s as much as Senator McCain had to spend in his entire campaign in 2008. Keep in mind: that doesn’t count all the rich celebrities, business leaders and union leaders who will be kicking in big money as well. Now you know why we think we can easily raise $1 billion for my campaign!
“We rely on everyday Americans giving whatever they can afford — and I want to spend time with a few of you.”
TRANSLATION: We think we can raise a ton of cash on the backs of the middle-class!
“So if you make a donation today, you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to be one of the four supporters to sit down with me for dinner. Please donate $3 or more today: (link omitted)”
TRANSLATION: I really wanted to say, “But wait, there’s more!” but a few members of my team thought that might be too “over-the-top.”
“We’ll pay for your flight and the dinner — all you need to bring is your story and your ideas about how we can continue to make this a better country for all Americans.”
TRANSLATION: We thought about having you pay your own way, and even charging you for dinner. After all, it’s a privilege to have dinner with me. Just ask Joe!
“This won’t be a formal affair. It’s the kind of casual meal among friends that I don’t get to have as often as I’d like anymore, so I hope you’ll consider joining me.”
TRANSLATION: This is a low budget deal. You’ll be flying Economy class, and we’ll probably just be grilling burgers and hotdogs. Think: “Beer Summit.” The less money we spend on you, the more money we can spend on my re-election campaign!
“But I’m not asking you to donate today just so you’ll be entered for a chance to meet me. I’m asking you to say you believe in the kind of politics that gives people like you a seat at the table — whether it’s the dinner table with me or the table where decisions are made about what kind of country we want to be.
TRANSLATION: Who am I kidding? Of course, I’m asking you to donate. Do you seriously think that I would be doing this if there weren’t a significant amount of money involved? I just pray that the Republicans and Tea Baggers don’t “break the code” and register to win without donating any money. That could really mess up the deal.
“It starts with a gift of whatever you can afford.”
TRANSLATION: As long as it’s at least $3, or $5 dollars if I’m not particularly fond of you.
“Please make a donation of $3 or more today, and we’ll throw your name in the hat for the upcoming dinner: (link omitted)”
TRANSLATION: I’m actually going to have Joe throw little folded pieces of paper into a hat. It’ll make him feel like he’s part of the event, and it’s hilarious to watch him do stuff like that!
I’ve said before that I want people like you to shape this campaign from the very beginning — and this is a chance for four people to share their ideas directly with me.
TRANSLATION: I didn’t mean it before, and I don’t mean it now. It’s just campaign rhetoric, like closing Gitmo, being transparent, caring about bipartisan accord, lowering the debt, creating jobs, and so forth. You’d have to be totally clueless not to realize that!
“Hope to see you soon,
Of course, this was followed by the normal fine print:
“No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning. Void where prohibited. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on 6/30/11. You may enter by contributing to Sponsor through (link omitted). Alternatively, visit (link omitted) to enter without contributing. Four winners will each receive the following prize package: one round-trip ticket within the continental U.S. to a destination to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion; hotel accommodations for one; and dinner with President Obama on a date to be determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion (approximate combined retail value of all prizes $1,075). Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who are legal residents of 50 United States and District of Columbia and 18 or older (or of majority under applicable law). Promotion subject to Official Rules and additional restrictions on eligibility. Visit (link omitted) for full details, restrictions, and Official Rules. Sponsor: Obama for America, 130 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601.”
Does the term “crass” come to mind? Have we become so resigned to “politics as usual” that we’ll just accept this type of insult to our intelligence? What ever happened to the “Change” we were promised?
Of course, President Obama isn’t the first President to lower himself for money. President Bush castigated President Clinton for “renting” the Lincoln Bedroom, which President Clinton didn’t really do. He merely made it available to a large number of major donors during the 1995-1996 campaign years, and they just happened to donate more than $5.4 million to his re-election campaign.
In one of those ironic twists that we have come to expect of politicians, the finger-pointer, President Bush, then used the White House as a backdrop for a few of his fundraising activities.
There is one small problem with soliciting funds from the White House (or any government building): it’s illegal under 18 U.S.C. 607(1)(a) unless you comply with an exception under 18 U.S.C. 607(1)(b). President Obama’s video clearly was made within the White House. However, the DNC argued that it was within the exception (a point with which I concur).
Interestingly enough, the DNC further argued that other President’s had done similar things. That essentially suggests that we can just ignore the law because, as we all know, “two wrongs make a right.” While this probably wasn’t the most compelling argument the DNC could have made, it looked “stellar” as compared to its remaining argument.
A spokesperson for the DNC stated that the initiative is not a fundraising solicitation. “This is not a fundraising solicitation in any way shape or form … (it’s just) a raffle.” Well, that explains everything!
Since there must not be any pressing issues upon which the President needs to remain focused, he apparently can afford to set aside some time to shoot a videotaped message for “Dinner with Barack.” It’s a good way to connect with the little people.
Speaking of which, the official site states the following:
“Contributions or gifts to Obama for America are not tax deductible.
“Obama for America can accept contributions from an individual of up to $2,500 per federal election (the primary and general are separate elections). By submitting your contribution, you agree that the first $2,500 of a contribution will be designated for the 2012 primary election, and any additional amount, up to $2,500 will be designated for the 2012 general election.”
TRANSLATION: Here’s a workaround for those of you who have a spare $5,000 to kick into the pot because the “recovery” is working so well for you (wink, wink). Now, please don’t enter 1,000 times at $5 a piece. Let one of the little guys win. Besides, if you put up $5,000, my staff will definitely tell me who you are and you can have dinner with me any time you want.
If we weren’t an international embarrassment before, we probably are now. Then again, what if other world leaders begin to leverage the idea? Muammar Qaddafi is supposedly running out of money while battling NATO bombings that the White House says don’t qualify as “hostilities.” Perhaps he’ll just hold a raffle: “Dinner with Maummar.” We may never be able to get him to step down!
In the interim, I think I’ll take a chance and buy a $3 raffle ticket (my price) and give the other $2 to the first homeless person I see. Can you imagine how delighted the President will be if I win?
Then, I’ll tell him my idea for reducing the National Debt: Raffle off dinners with each of the 435 Representatives and 100 Senators! Let’s see: There are about 250 million citizens who are old enough to vote. So, 250 million people times 535 Members of Congress times $5 is almost $670 billion. Clearly, America needs The Common Sense Czar!
T.J. O’Hara is a political satirist, media personality and author of three best selling books: The Left isn’t Right, The Right is Wrong, and The National Platform of Common Sense. To Order Books, go to: http://tinyurl.com/2a9rztg
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