By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Let's take a look at the president's schedule over the last two days:
President Obama flew to Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas and gave "one of the shortest speeches of his political career," according to the New York Times's coverage, to mark the 100 days since the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—otherwise known as the $787 billion stimulus package. In his official remarks, which were only four paragraphs long, he actually said this:
You know, it's always a pleasure to get out of Washington a little bit. Washington is okay, but it's nice taking some time to talk to Americans of every walk of life outside of the nation's capital.
For the rest of his trip, there was no time for "talking to Americans of every walk of life" because there were no other public events. The president left the military base and attended a multimillion-dollar fundraiser Tuesday night for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at Caesar's Palace—where he shared with the crowd his delight in getting an "upgrade" to the luxurious Presidential Suite.
Then it was off to Beverly Hills, for another fundraiser, this time for the DNC. According to Scott Wilson of the Washington Post, some donors paid $1,000 to see the president in a big ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, but then 125 couples paid a whopping $30,000 each for dinner afterward with the president. The word is he raised between $3 million and $4 million in one night, all in "soft" money for the national committee. The Post called it "a rapturous crowd studded with movie stars" such as Ron Howard, Jamie Foxx, Melanie Griffith, and Antonio Banderas as well as superstar producer Steven Spielberg.
The problem is not that presidents are expected to raise money for their parties. The problem is that in the midst of one of California's worst fiscal crises ever—with unemployment at 11 percent, massive budget deficits, thousands of state workers laid off, and billions slashed from school budgets—the president chose to stay away from any sort of town hall meetings, school classrooms, homeless shelters, or factories. I've been on the receiving end of a last-minute presidential decision to add an event to an upcoming trip ("Can you find a school for me to visit?") and although chaotic for staff, it can be done. Obama chose not to.
And here's the biggest problem of all: If George Bush had done the same thing—stayed at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas after telling the American people that this was no time to go to Vegas, then had a $15,000-a-ticket gala in Beverly Hills in a state on the verge of bankruptcy followed by no public events at all—the press would be screaming about how "out of touch" he is. They'd be off the charts about his elitism. And they'd be calling him a hypocrite.
But the silence is deafening.
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