It’s nice to finally know how much President George W. Bush’s promises about bringing integrity back to the Oval Office were worth: $23.9 million.
Tuesday night, the president helped set a fundraising record for the Republican Party by hosting a black-tie bash at the National Guard Armory. Tickets cost $1,500 for individuals and $20,000 for corporations. Attendees, needless to say, were encouraged to give more. They did.
Before the dinner, Cabinet members sat down with “Eagle-level” donors, patriots who donated more than $15,000. Donating corporations included Phillip Morris (tobacco), Bristol-Myers Squibb (pharmaceuticals), the National Beer Wholesalers Association (booze), Capitol One (credit cards), AT&T (telecommunications) and PepsiCo (sugar water and fast food).
After the chitchat, more than 2,000 donors sat under red, white and blue lights, dined on vegetables Napoleon, horseradish-encrusted tenderloin with shallot-Merlot sauce, asparagus, five-onion risotto, cake and key lime pie. The Count Basie Orchestra played. Then, the president thanked donors for putting him in the White House.
“I want to thank you all for your very generous contributions so that my drive was only five minutes,” Bush said. “And I appreciate your generous support so that our agenda gets advanced.”
When Bush was running for office, one item on his agenda was restoring honor and dignity to the presidency. The G.W. campaign machine complained righteously about Bill Clinton meeting with donors on property owned by the government. Buddhist monks and coffee in the White House, they said, proved our government was being sold.
Key lime pie, apparently, is a different matter.
The Bush administration is acting like a rapacious pack of hypocritical plutocrats. White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer dismissed comparisons to Clinton and said, “The difference is night and day.”
Bullshit. There is no moral difference between their actions and Clinton renting out the Lincoln Bedroom. Bush is peddling access and influence, just like his predecessor. The stench from Washington, D.C. is nauseating, if not surprising.
Three Cabinet members – Education Secretary Rod Paige, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson – backed out of briefing the “Eagles.” The New York Times reported that White House sources said the cabinet members were worried the whole thing might appear as awful as it is.
Something less than high principles may have motivated Thompson’s actions. Last month, he was attacked for briefing fundraisers in his office.
Tuesday’s fundraiser was hardly an isolated incident. On Monday at the vice-presidential residence, Dick Cheney met with 400 people who had donated more than $100,000 in soft money to the Republican Party.
Bush may talk about honor and dignity, but it looks like he prefers cash, check or charge.