"[M]onopoly profits exist over the long run only when the government guarantees them, as in utilities and cable. And for concentration of market power, no robber baron can hold a candle to the U.S. government.... The hugest concentration of market power in this country does not lie with the likes of Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates, but with government itself.... No private company, no matter how huge or wealthy, could possibly have as much widespread power over the function of American markets as government does." ~ Brian Doherty
An Invitation to Dinner
A couple of months ago (yes, I’m just now getting around to writing this column), I received a beige envelope in the mail that had a return address of simply “Dick Cheney.” “What could the President want with me?” I wondered. Hands trembling, I opened the envelope.
Inside was the ugliest invitation I’ve ever seen. It was all brown with wavy lines, except for the part that contained the information, which was red. It was an invitation to The President’s Dinner in Washington, D.C., honoring President George W. Bush. Black tie, cocktail reception, dinner, dessert and dancing, with entertainment provided by Rage Against the Machine. No, just kidding. Vince Gill.
There was also a three-page letter from Dick Cheney. “Dear Rob, I write to invite you to join the President and Mrs. Bush for a private dinner . . . and also to ask you to serve as a representative of Kennesaw, Georgia at The President’s Dinner. In fact, a special place of honor has already been reserved for you to recognize your steadfast support of President Bush.” Yeah, my “support” of Geedubya has been pretty steadfast, hasn’t it?
The letter continues, “If for any reason you cannot be here, the President and I still want to honor you for your service to our party and your past support. So if you cannot attend, please accept the honor of becoming an Honorary Co-Chairman of The President’s Dinner.” OK, honor accepted! Can I put that on my resume?
“As you know, [Then why are you telling me?] The President’s Dinner is . . . the cornerstone of the President’s personal effort to maintain and expand our very slim Republican majority in the House and to regain our Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.” You will see that phrase again.
“And it is also the annual gathering of the President’s closest supporters like you . . . . This year, The President’s Dinner takes on special meaning. It is an opportunity to honor President Bush for his courageous leadership during this historic time and to thank you for making that leadership possible through your steadfast support of President Bush and his agenda.” What is his agenda? War? The repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act? The suspension of habeas corpus and the right to a lawyer and a civilian trial by a jury of your peers? A domestic spying program and the return of COINTELPRO? Huge increases in federal spending? An enormous new federal bureaucracy that subsumes many existing departments and agencies? Ridiculous security measures at airports and on airplanes? A national driver’s license/ID card? Price supports for agriculture? Bailouts for favored industries? Billions of dollars for Amtrak? Tariffs? Campaign finance “reform”? The nationalization of education policy? Greater funding for AmeriCorps and the creation of all kinds of other corps? Welfare for churches? More gun laws? Yeah, tell me what I can do to support that agenda.
“That is why the President and I sincerely hope you will attend The President’s Dinner this year and support the Bush Administration’s effort to win back our Republican majority in the U.S. Senate and increase our Republican majority in the House.”
“And while it will take a great deal of money to get out our message [What message?], electing Republican majorities in the U.S. Senate and House is crucial to passing the President’s agenda….” Oh, well then hell, I’d better send you some money, because I sure want to make Trent Lott the Senate Majority Leader so he can pass Shrub’s agenda.
“Electing a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate and expanding our Republican majority in the House is perhaps the most important service you can provide President Bush at this time.”
“That is why I hope you will attend The President’s Dinner or, if you cannot attend, that you will serve as an Honorary Co-Chairman of The Dinner and help us maintain and increase our Republican majority in the U.S. House and regain our majority in the U.S. Senate.”
“Together President Bush and our Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have accomplished a great deal. [They sure have, haven’t they! Is that why I have to keep sending huge checks to the IRS each quarter?] We have . . . reformed education [increased the Department of Education’s budget by 20%], rallied the nation to confront and fight terrorism both here and abroad and fulfilled our promise to bring compassionate conservatism to Washington.” Thanks a lot! I can just feel the compassion emanating from the District of Criminals now that you guys are in charge.
“We could not have accomplished these goals without your support. And we will not finish the job without Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate. Thank you for your continued support.” Well I hope you can finish the job, Dick, because thus far, your regime has felt like a solar-powered electric chair on a partly cloudy day.
Then there was a brief letter from Senator George Allen: “Dear Friend of the President, . . . The President’s Dinner isn’t simply a gathering of the President’s closest supporters like you. It is the cornerstone of the President’s personal effort to regain our Republican majority in the U.S. Senate and expand our very slim Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Tickets to The President’s Dinner are $2,500 each or you may purchase a table of ten for $25,000.” Put me down for ten tables for $250,000.
“To honor your commitment to President Bush, The President’s Dinner has commissioned a unique, limited-edition, numbered, three-photograph series entitled “The First Year,” [Of the Fourth Reich?] for all Co-Chairmen who contribute at least $150.” How about if I take a few pictures of my arse? Would Geedubya pay $150 for those?
Then there was a little card that had a miniature version of the three photos and described each one: “The gritty determination of our new President at his Inauguration; a telephone call from Air Force One to Vice President Cheney the afternoon of September 11, 2001 [“Dick, where do I hide now?”]; and President Bush’s historic State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress that united a nation and a world . . . . [The photo set is] our way of saying thank you for your personal commitment to President Bush, to maintaining and increasing our Republican majority in the House of Representatives and to regaining our majority in the U.S. Senate in the 2002 elections.”
Well, Dick, I was planning to pay for ten tables and serve as a representative of Kennesaw until I heard that you were inviting drug users to the dinner. According to the TV ads that your gang ran during the Super Bowl, if you use drugs, you support terrorism. So if you take that guy’s money, you’re supporting terrorism, too. Which would mean that if I attended a dinner that was financed in part by drug money, I would be supporting terrorism, too. Which means that Geedubya could declare me an “unlawful enemy combatant” and throw me into a military prison without charges, access to an attorney, communication with the outside world, or sunlight for the duration of our War on Terrorism, which is basically forever. Nice try, Dick.