Thursday, August 5, 2010

Obama bears gifts on his “birthday” trip

Barack Obama turned 49 while visiting us in Chicago. Yet the reality is that he is using his trip to give gifts to the people he needs as political allies if he wishes to get anything done in the next couple of years.

The president made a two-day trip to the Second City, and while he is making an appearance at the Ford Motor Co. plant in and near the Hegewisch neighborhood, the bulk of his day Thursday will be his attendance at fundraising events.

THAT SEEMS TO be how he’s spending his time these days, as he did some time in Atlanta earlier this week to help raise money for would-be Democratic allies.

Of course, this activity is giving us a lot of cheap rhetoric from Republican partisans who want to claim that Obama is somehow corrupting himself by helping to raise money for other people they want to portray as corrupt.

Those of us with common sense recognize such rhetoric as tacky, and best ignored. But there are those of us who might actually be inclined to believe that what is happening Thursday is somehow unique.

There is a political risk. What happens if the jury currently locked in a back room at the Dirksen Building decides that they can reach a verdict in the criminal case against Rod Blagojevich on Thursday?

TESTIMONY THAT CAME out of the former Illinois governor’s trial indicated, to me at least, that the two men didn’t think much of each other – no matter how much GOP partisans want to spin the two as somehow connected at the hip.

How quickly will Obama go into hiding if a verdict is reached on the same day that he happens to be in Chicago for the first time since the Memorial Day rainout at the Abraham Lincoln Cemetery for military veterans near Elwood, Ill.?

Because we all know reporter-types in Chicago will show just how wimpy their White House press counterparts with their new briefing room seating configuration can be when it comes to persistently grilling a man about a subject on which he’d rather say nothing.

I can’t help but think Obama would rather have to take the cheap shots about providing financial help to corrupt politicians, rather than have to say Word One about Blagojevich.

FOR THE RECORD, Obama’s involvement on Thursday will be attendance at three fundraisers – one of which is meant to boost the campaign fund of his one-time basketball buddy, Alexi Giannoulias, who is running for U.S. Senate.

With people paying up to $2,400 per ticket to get into that event at the Palmer House, I’d hope the president has something substantial to say – rather than the usual campaign babble.

Yet that’s the relatively cheap event. Those willing to pay up to $30,000 a person will get to attend a party at a Democratic loyalist’s home at which the president will attend. They can pretend for a few moments to be intimate friends (although my guess is that we will learn whom the Obamas’ true friends are a few years from now when daughters Sasha and Malia get married).

Then, there’s the cheap event. For $250 a ticket, one can be allowed to set foot inside the Chicago Cultural Center at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street at a time when the president will be nearby.

THEN, HE LEAVES Chicago and will engage in similar stunts in California and Texas in the next couple of weeks, although the reports that came out of Atlanta earlier this week indicated many local Democrats who preferred not to be seen at the Obama events in that city.

Yes, there is a sense to which I think the Obama events on Thursday are cheap (in quality, not in price) and tacky. Yet I think it is a cheap shot to believe that Obama is the only political person who behaves in such a manner.

Let’s not forget earlier this year when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (an ideological darling to a segment of the GOP partisans) made her appearance in suburban Rosemont. Her fundraiser charged $25,000 for people who wanted to be able to say they once sat at the same dinner table and engaged in chit-chat with Palin.

Could it be that the Republicans’ real gripe is that their opposition's head guy can command a higher fee than their own so-called partisan star?

OR THERE’S THE upcoming event (scheduled for Sept. 18 and affiliated with the United Republican Fund) called Right Nation, which purports to be a fundraising rally “all converging on President Obama’s hometown,” even though the reality is that they’re not setting foot in the city. Instead they’re going to the Sears Centre Arena in suburban Hoffman Estates.

Some have tried making hay of the fact that such establishment Republicans as Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, and state Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, are partaking in an event that is featuring Andrew Breitbart.

Remember him? He’s the guy who operates various websites that give us conservative spin on the news, and is being threatened with lawsuits by Georgia-based Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod on account of those decades old video snippets that talked about how race impacted her ability to do her job. If anything, I’d be more offended at the thought of being part of a group that likely will treat Breitbart like a conquering hero. But that is the level of partisanship these types of events always reach.

Which makes the bottom line one of people shouldn’t be too quick to smack about Obama for his political activity, because it really isn’t any different than anything the other side is doing as well.


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