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$5 gets you a meal with President Obama?

Updated: October 29, 2012 6:42AM



Most of the polls seem to say the election is trending in Barack Obama’s favor and I don’t have any reason to believe otherwise, except maybe one: the urgency with which the president keeps inviting me to dinner.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m flattered to receive Barack’s invitations and please don’t think me disrespectful by referring to the president by his first name because that’s how he always signs his emails.

I’m sure everyone else on this very exclusive mailing list is also quite flattered to hear from President Obama, although as in my case not nearly so flattered as when contacted directly by Mrs. Obama (she, too, allows pen pals like me to call her Michelle but I don’t like to push it.)

I’ll even admit I blushed a little when the first lady sent me an email just after the Democratic National Convention with a subject line of: “Mark, you’re amazing.”

Even though I was alone in my Charlotte hotel room at the time, I was so embarrassed I semi-accidentally hit the delete button before I could read what it was about.

You should understand. For those of us on this very exclusive mailing list, it is not uncommon to hear from the Obamas every week, although the pace has picked up considerably in September as this apparently very important dinner party grows near.

I believe the first invite from the president arrived on Sept. 17 with the heading: “I’m saving a seat for Mark” and explaining that he was going to sit down to dinner with grass-roots supporters during this campaign “one last time.”

While I was surprised he referred to me as a grass-roots supporter (as opposed to a dear friend), what really grabbed me was the P.S.:

“Flight and hotel are on us. All you have to do is come and eat.”

The last time I received such a generous offer was from an outfit selling lakefront property in Arkansas.

Mrs. Obama followed up the next day with her own email, referring to this dinner as “the end of a campaign tradition.”

Then it was Barack again the day after that.

“Dinner?” his email inquired.

Maybe I took it wrong but from the tone of the question, I was worried maybe he was upset with me for not having responded sooner. The truth is I don’t commit to anything without checking first with my wife, and it kept slipping my mind.

I think the turning point for me —
where I started to get concerned about the president’s re-election prospects — came Sunday when Vice President Joe Biden got involved.

I’m not used to hearing from Joe, but he must have found out I still hadn’t responded to the invites. I understand every president needs an enforcer, but I thought Joe came across kind of pushy.

“This is the last Dinner with Barack of this campaign — and I don’t think you should miss it. Trust me,” Joe wrote.

Wow. Last dinner. Last supper. Makes you think, right?

Unfortunately, all the invitations said the president didn’t even know where or when this dinner was going to be. Call me inflexible, but I’m getting kind of old for that kind of thing. The president of the United States says “Let’s eat” and I’m supposed to drop everything to jump on a jet and meet him for dinner? I mean, who’s going to walk Gilbert?

In the last few days, the Obamas really turned up the pressure, first with Barack writing to tell me how “bittersweet” this last dinner will be for him and saying how he’d “love” for me and my guest to be there.

Then on Tuesday, Michelle sent an email headlined “Today only . . .” and Barack followed up with one declaring, “I’m asking one last time.”

Sure sounded desperate to me.

I guess I forgot to mention that each of these invitations asked me to “donate $5 or whatever you can” to be “automatically entered” to join the president for dinner.

After I wrote about these email solicitations from the Obamas two years ago (when the minimum ante was only $3), I heard back from many supporters of the president who thought me gullible and wondered if I’d ever heard of spam.

Hmmm. I thought about that, but the emails all come directly from the Obama for America campaign, and I’m confident neither Barack nor Michelle would allow the campaign to send out anything they hadn’t authorized.

That’s why I have my doubts about those favorable polls. When the president of the United States is reduced to hustling small-time campaign donations like a televangelist, I have to assume he’s not putting much stock in them either.



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