President Obama has asked me to dinner, and maybe he has asked you, too. Well, as you can see below, it is not exactly an invitation. And it’s not an auction either. It’s “bingo” and, I suppose, that’s as democratic a process as it comes. Or as populist, for that matter. All you have to do is give Barack’s campaign three bucks and you’re entered in the sweepstakes. You can bring a guest. Who wouldn’t? Your spouse, your partner (which has now replaced “significant other” in the lingo), or just a friend. Anyone. But not White House gate crasher Tarak Dirham Salahi. Nor his estranged wife Michaele who now pals around with a founder of the classic rock band Santana, more recently playing with the newer “prog rock” group Journey.
Oh, and Michaele reminds me of Michelle: “It’s not often that Michelle and I get to host a casual meal with friends.” So now for $3 (and if you are lucky) you will be called friends.
Here’s the text of the come-on:
Now click the line that reads, “Chip in $3 or whatever you can today -- and you’ll automatically be entered to be one of our dinner guests.” You’ll immediately be entered into the real dynamics of campaign contributions. They’re no longer talking $3 contributions. They are now talking $5,000 contributions. Yes, I know, you thought that $2,500 was the maximum you could give. But, you see, there are two stages to the Obama campaign: the primary elections and the general elections. What primary elections? you ask. Well, that’s the neatness of the trick. Obama won’t spend a dime on the primaries anywhere. Still, you can give $2,500 twice. (That’s why Democratic cash is so much higher right now than Republican cash. No Republican contender can plausibly raise money for the general election until, well, he wins the nomination. I am not weeping for the other party: They’ll have it easy enough raking in the cash after the Tampa convention or when the primaries have forecasted a plausible GOP nominee.)
There’s other information in this particular link. One is that the campaign will pay for your airfare to the dinner from wherever—and the $3 option appears nowhere on the legal form you have to fill in. Has the $3 contribution disappeared as a choice?
The line that begins with “https:” repeats precisely the link above.
But it sports a meaningless, going nowhere “Me-and-Michelle” phrase, as you can see. Now, the president has always had trouble with his pronouns. And it’s not because he had a faulty education. Children of the elites make these errors routinely: He’s achieved enough without being a privileged child. Still, speaking of the notorious and insufficiently explained Reverend Jeremiah Wright, candidate Obama declaimed, “You will remember he was somebody who was my pastor, and married Michelle and I ... baptized our children ...”
So, since there will only be three designated dinner guests (and their guests), I wonder how the choice will be made. Will the meal and the talk during it be publicized on the web and in which of the myriad possible venues? In any case, since there will only be three winners, your odds are like those who buy lottery tickets for oodles of millions of dollars.
Please don’t imagine that you are entering the ambassadorial sweepstakes like those that got our envoys to Belgium, the United Kingdom, and plenty of other states. You have to be immensely rich even to aspire to such posts and then “bundle” hundreds of thousands of dollars for the candidate of the poor and the distressed.
Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.