Politics & Policy

Our Celebrity President

President Obama works a fundraiser at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, June 6, 2012.
There are monarchies and republics aplenty, but there’s only one 24/7 fundraising presidency.

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee a few days ago — that’s 60 years on the throne. Just to put it in perspective, she’s been queen since Harry S. Truman was president. At any rate, her jubilee has been a huge success, save for a few churlish republicans in various corners of Her Majesty’s realms from London to Toronto to Sydney pointing out how absurd it is for grown citizens to be fawning over a distant head of state who lives in a fabulous, glittering cocoon entirely disconnected from ordinary life.

Which brings us to President Obama.

Last week, the republic’s citizen-president passed among his fellow Americans. Where? Cleveland? Dubuque? Presque Isle, Maine? No, Beverly Hills. These days, it’s pretty much always Beverly Hills or Manhattan, because that’s where the money is. That’s the Green Zone, and you losers are outside it. Appearing at an Obama fundraiser at the home of Glee creator Ryan Murphy and his “fiancé” David Miller, the president, reasonably enough, had difficulty distinguishing one A-list Hollywood summit from another. “I just came from a wonderful event over at the Wilshire or the Hilton — I’m not sure which,” said Obama, “because you go through the kitchens of all these places and so you never are quite sure where you are.”

#ad#Ah, the burdens of stardom. The old celebrities-have-to-enter-through-the-kitchen line. The last time I heard that was a couple of decades back in London when someone was commiserating with Sinatra on having to be ushered in through the back. Frank brushed it aside. We were at the Savoy, or maybe the Waldorf. I can’t remember, and I came in through the front door. Oddly enough, the Queen enters hotels through the lobby. So do Prince William and his lovely bride. A month ago, they stayed at a pub in Suffolk for a friend’s wedding, and came in through the same door as mere mortals. Imagine that!

So far this year, President Obama has been to three times as many fundraisers as President Bush had attended by this point in the 2004 campaign. This is what the New York Post calls his “torrid pace,” although judging from those remarks in California he’s about as torrid as an overworked gigolo staggering punchily through the last mambo of the evening. According to Brendan J. Doherty’s forthcoming book The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign, Obama has held more fundraisers than the previous five presidents’ reelection campaigns combined.

This is all he does now. But hey, unlike those inbred monarchies with their dukes and marquesses and whatnot, at least he gets out among the masses. Why, in a typical week, you’ll find him at a fundraiser at George Clooney’s home in Los Angeles with Barbra Streisand and Salma Hayek. These are people who are in touch with the needs of ordinary Americans because they have played ordinary Americans in several of their movies. And then only four days later the president was in New York for a fundraiser hosted by Ricky Martin, the only man on the planet whose evolution on gayness took longer than Obama’s. It’s true that moneyed celebrities in, say, Pocatello or Tuscaloosa have not been able to tempt the president to hold a lavish fundraiser in Idaho or Alabama, but he does fly over them once in a while. Why, only a week ago, he was on Air Force One accompanied by Jon Bon Jovi en route to a fundraiser called Barack on Broadway.

Any American can attend an Obama event for a donation of a mere $35,800 — the cost of the fundraiser hosted by Dreamworks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the one hosted by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and the one hosted by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, and the one hosted by Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, and the one hosted by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. $35,800 is a curiously non-round figure. Perhaps the ticket cost is $36,000, but under Obamacare there’s a $200 co-pay. Those of us who grew up in hidebound, class-ridden monarchies are familiar with the old proverb that a cat can look at a king. But in America only a cool cat can look at the king.

However, there are some cheap seats available. A year and a half ago, big-money Democrats in Rhode Island paid $7,500 per person for the privilege of having dinner with President Obama at a private home in Providence. He showed up for 20 minutes and then said he couldn’t stay for dinner. “I’ve got to go home to walk the dog and scoop the poop,” he told them, because when you’ve paid seven-and-a-half grand for dinner nothing puts you in the mood to eat like a guy talking about canine fecal matter. And, having done the poop gag, the president upped and exited, and left bigshot Dems to pass the evening talking to the guy from across the street. But you’ve got to admit that’s a memorable night out: $7,500 for Dinner with Obama* (*dinner with Obama not included).

#page#And here’s an even better deal, for those who, despite the roaring economy, can’t afford even $7,500 for non-dinner with Obama: The president of the United States is raffling himself off! For the cost of a $3 non-refundable online-application processing fee, you and your loved one can have your names put in a large presidential hat from which the FBI background-check team will pluck two to be ushered into the presence of their humble citizen-executive. That’s to say, somewhere across the fruited plain, a common-or-garden non-celebrity will win the opportunity to attend an Obama fundraiser at the home of Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker, co-hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, the British-born inspiration for the movie The Devil Wears Prada. I wish this were a parody, but I’m not that good. But I’m sure Sarah Jessica and Anna will treat you just like any other minor celebrity they’ve accidentally been seated next to due to a hideous faux pas in placement, even if you do dip the wrong end of the arugula in the amuse-bouche.

#ad#If you’re wondering who Anna Wintour is, boy, what a schlub you are: She’s renowned throughout the fashion world for her scary bangs. I’m referring to her hair, not to the last sound Osama bin Laden heard as the bullet headed toward his eye socket on the personal orders of the president, in case you’ve forgotten. But that’s the kind of inside tidbit you’ll be getting, as the commander-in-chief leaks highly classified national-security details to you over the zebra mussel in a Eurasian-milfoil coulis. For a donation of $35,800, he’ll pose with you in a Seal Team Six uniform with one foot on Osama’s corpse (played by Harry Reid). For a donation of $46,800, he’ll send an unmanned drone to hover amusingly over your sister-in-law’s house. For a donation of $77,800, he’ll install you as the next president-for-life of Syria (liability waiver required). For a donation of $159,800, he’ll take you into Sarah Jessica’s guest bedroom and give you the full 007 while Carly Simon sings “Nobody Does It Better.”

There are monarchies and republics aplenty, but there’s only one 24/7 celebrity fundraising presidency. If it’s Tuesday, it must be Kim Cattrall, or Hootie and the Blowfish, or Laverne and Shirley, or the ShamWow guy . . . I wonder if the Queen ever marvels at the transformation of the American presidency since her time with Truman. Ah, well. If you can’t stand the klieg-light heat of Obama’s celebrity, stay out of the Beverly Wilshire kitchen.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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