The President Will Accept Checks In Lieu of Birthday Cake

The distasteful practice of parties fundraising off birthdays and surgeries.

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Former President George W. Bush gives a speech at a U.S. citizen swearing in ceremony at the The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, July 10, 2013.

The president just had surgery. Or he's having a birthday. Or, maybe you're having a birthday. Send a check!

The Republican National Committee is urging people to sign a get-well card for former President George W. Bush, who just had unexpected heart surgery. Nice thought. Except, as the Dallas Morning News' Todd Gillman reports, the solicitation then asks for a donation of $5 to $250 to the party. The money is supposed to go for a flower arrangement for the recovering former commander in chief, but it's clear – unless the RNC was planning to airlift the New York Botanical Garden – that the money is largely going to party coffers.

Democrats ought to be appalled at the crassness of it all, except that they do the same thing. For weeks ahead of President Obama's recent 52nd birthday, Organizing for America sent pleading emails to people, asking them to sign the president's birthday card. Nice thought, and one accompanied by a folksy picture of the president eating ice cream. And OFA, too, wanted well-wishers to "chip in" $5 dollars or more.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

At least we're out of the heat of presidential campaign season. Last year, the Obama-Biden campaign, on its website, made this little gift suggestion to birthday boys and girls: instead of getting just another gift card you won't use to a store you don't like, why not ask people to send a donation to the campaign in lieu of a gift? I'm feeling celebratory already!

Then there was the offer from the Democratic National Committee, after the Boston Marathon bombings, to collect signatures for a massive e-card thanking the first responders who so bravely handled the crisis. Nice thought. Except that signers had to provide their names, email addresses and zip codes – as the Boston Globe pointed out at the time, "valuable currency" for the party. The DNC said it had no intention of using the information for fundraising purposes. Sure. If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brookline to sell you.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

It's bad enough that people have taken to "inviting" guests to dinner or parties, then demanding a check or some other contribution to cover the costs. And blessed Miss Manners is still trying to tell brides and grooms that they can't put "checks preferred" on their wedding invitations. But soliciting campaign cash attached to an upsetting event – or even a birthday – is setting an even worse example.

What's wrong with being direct? Why not just say, hey, we're trying to retire our debt from the last election, or we're trying to kill Obamacare once and for all and take back the House, or we want to have a better party at the next political convention and we need some more money, so could you spot us a tenner? Or just put a picture of an endangered House freshman on the front of a mailer: "You can help this lawmaker. Or you can turn the page."

A bit pathetic, yes. But at least it's not so tacky.

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