Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Obama Campaign: Dilettantes in Paradise

My, my.  I haven't been around for quite awhile!  I must make up for that.

I've been stewing in something for a little while, and I think I've finally put my finger on why the latest Obama campaign fundraising scheme makes me so very livid angry.  You know the one I'm talking about -- the scheme wherein the Young President suggests . . . no, the scheme in which he outright asks you to forego birthday or wedding gifts, and instead suggest that your friends and family make a donation to his campaign in your name because that's a gift that "goes a lot further than a gravy bowl," and "it’s a great way to support the President on your big day."

For real.  It's called The Obama Event Registry.

First off, the traditional wedding gift to which the campaign so snarkingly refers is a gravy boat, not a gravy bowl.  Anyone with half an ounce's training in etiquette, protocol, or even common table manners knows what this is:

Who do they have running that campaign, anyway? A bunch of Occupy Wannabes?

Next, most everybody I know awakens on his birthday or wedding day and immediately thinks, "I wonder what I can do today, my special day, to redistribute some wealth support the president's re-election campaign?"  Sure!

But finally, what really galls my soul is this: the pure, simple, unending, unconcerned narcissism of politicians has finally gone over the edge with this one.  But this "idea" goes beyond the narcissistic; it approaches the tawdry.  Simple Narcissism was the cloak worn so ably and easily by former White House denizen, Bill Clinton. 

Example from personal experience:

Way back in 1992, when then-Governor Clinton was kicking his run for the Oval Office into high gear (after having told his Arkansas constituency in 1990 that he no longer had much "fire in his belly" to think about seeking the presidency, so please re-elect him to the Governor's Mansion and don't worry about him abandoning you in mid-term), I was teaching a grant-funded Summer Enrichment program for high school students at the UALR School of Law entitled, "L.R. Law."  (Remember the old tv series, LA Law? Yeah, bad pun.)  My staff (of one) and I had two weeks to immerse the kids in the legal system of central Arkansas, teaching them and exposing them to a little bit about trials, evidence, courts, and the criminal justice system.  The capstone activity of the program was Mock Trial, in which teams of students prosecuted a made-up civil lawsuit in teams -- the Finals were to be held in the rather impressive, refurbished Art Deco courtroom in the law school, and judged by law school faculty.  The kids were really excited about it and we practiced in the courtroom often so they wouldn't be quite so nervous.

Three days before the Finals, the Dean contacted me with an unexpected opportunity for the kids -- Bill Clinton was making a campaign stop in Little Rock and wanted to address a group of high school kids.  Since school was out of session, we were the logical go-to group.  Not being a huge Clinton fan, I must say that I wasn't exactly excited about the prospect.  After figuring out how to re-schedule the opening morning session the next day, while acknowledging that this could be a once-in-a lifetime chance for many of those kids to rub elbows with national figures, and knowing that "Clinton Time" was not called that for just any old reason -- he notoriously ran late to almost any event -- I gave in and told the kids about the opportunity to hear and ask questions of the sitting Governor and potential President of the United States.

He was in rare Clintonesque form and didn't disappoint -- the students were amazed when he called me by name as he was performing the ol' handshake/pat on the shoulder maneuver, and he asked how Pepper was doing.  (They both grew up in Hot Springs, and had also had some -- encounters -- during Pepper's National Guard service.  But that's another story).  He was charming and engaging and charismatic, listening to the mesmerized kids express their hopes and dreams for the future ("Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" was played to accompany the local tv news pieces on the campaign stop -- of course). 

He also ran 1 1/2 hours late while I tried to figure out how to entertain 24 high school kids in the Law Library chosen by the Campaign for its scholarly appointments and commanding view of the Arkansas River, but not very conducive to conducting classes/exercises.  All in all, it was probably a good experience for the kids, even if it did frazzle me to the Nth degree. 

But, we were able to get in one final practice in the courtroom before the kids departed for the day. 
And, then, the Big But happened -- as I was kicking off my shoes in my office and preparing to tweak the next day's closing events, the phone rang.  On the other end was someone from the Campaign Scheduler's Office.

They wanted to use the law school courtroom the next day as a legal-ish backdrop for some nitpicky policy announcement to be made by Candidate Clinton.  And they needed it all afternoon in case they had to do several takes.  And they were very sorry about my kids, but were sure that, since the Candidate had spent time with them earlier, the kids would understand why they would now be performing their mock trials in the classroom instead of the impressive courtroom, replete with bench, witness stand, counsel tables, and jury box.  The Candidate would provide autographed photos to each child to assuage his disappointment.

And they left me to tell the kids.  Let me tell you what a roomful of deflated, dressed to lawyer-ize, high school kids looks like.  No, you don't want to know; it's too painful.

Then, the Candidate only used the courtroom for 30 minutes and I didn't find out about it until it was too late -- I could've juggled the schedule around that brief interlude and the kids could've had a much better experience.

And I've had little to no trust in the sincerity of any political candidate's expression of genuine support for education, and helping the little guy, and sharing the "stuff" with the common man ever since.  The expression "ringing hollow' doesn't come close to how those words echo in my ears.

So when the incumbent president asks young people to give up their biggest chance to start lives together with nice things -- or just with things that they don't have to buy -- in order to support his campaign . . .  I have to get up and walk around the house for a few minutes to cool off while typing this post.


  1. That's one helluva Clinton story, Moogie. Best I ever heard, actually... and like most members of the VRWC, I've heard a TON of 'em. Dang... your poor students.

    As for The Registry... "tawdry" IS the word. His campaign is THE most clue-free, out of touch group of pols I've seen in my lifetime.

    Nice rant.

  2. Thanks, Buck. It feels good to have gotten that out of my head. Maybe someday I'll write about when Clinton tried to crash Pepper's military career.

    Event registry. Egad.

  3. Self-centered elitists who spout concern for the common man and then do nothing or worse like Clinton, Obama and Hollywooders, really chaps my bottom (My GGs are not allowed to use the word butt or ass).

  4. Tawdry and narcissistic are truly the best descriptors.

  5. I'm with you, Lou! (And I wish my grands weren't allowed to use the word butt!)

  6. Indeed, PH. In polite company at least!