Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dinner with Barack

Day One of Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee, and we were fortunate enough to have had dinner with him last evening. Fresh from his victory speech in St. Paul and a day in Washington, D.C., at the Senate and at AIPAC, the Senator arrived at the fund-raiser in a private Manhattan home to greet and dine and thank and schmooze with a hundred supporters who contributed a lot of money to have dinner with him.

Background: Last May 3, 2007, we hosted our own fund-raiser for him in our apartment as the campaign was still in its embryonic stages. It was the first day of Secret Service protection, and that consisted of a solitary agent (the security contingent is a lot larger now). The candidate then was energetic, engaged, and chatted up each of our fifty guests. And as I blogged at the time, the difference I noticed immediately between him and Bill Clinton, whom I had met once, was that in conversation, Clinton lectured; Obama listened.

He's a phenomenon: Obama has been campaigning nonstop since then, every day, up to 18 hours per day, God knows how many states, cities, burgs, railroad crossings, shopping centers, bowling alleys and doughnut shops. Yet tonight he arrived fresh, involved, enthusiastic - and mesmerizing. After brief introductory remarks, he circulated around the room, speaking with each attendee, recognizing most of them, and giving new meaning to gracious.

What wasn't said: Who his VP choice is, who his cabinet appointments will be, and whom he'll put on the Supreme Court. (Surprise!)

Who was in the audience: You know -- the usual suspects. Not exactly the demographic of Kentucky or West Virginia, rather his long-time supporters, a few new recruits, and a lot of the faithful. But what took me aback was the presence of at least two hitherto - until yesterday -- strong supporters of Hillary Clinton, and at least one with the (perhaps dashed) hopes of scoring a top cabinet post in a Clinton administration. This attendee's presence signifies either that the rapprochement has begun, or that opportunism is alive and well and living in politics. (Surprise, surprise!)

VP discussion: In a highly unscientific poll that I conducted of a smattering of the guests, the support for Hillary as the running mate was zero. (Surprise, surprise, surprise!)

What it proved: There is a big pool of money out there available for Obama that extends well beyond the Internet machine that has proved so successful in his campaign. And unlike the primary cycle, where there was a $2,300 limit per person, the creative minds of the political world have found ingenious ways to multiply that upper limit more than ten-fold for the general election. So fund-raising dinners that once netted six-figure amounts have moved into seven-figure territory.

What we came away with: That we were witnessing history. That we were in the presence of a person who can unify the country, both politically and racially. Someone who can return us to the family of nations. And someone who can once again make us feel proud to call ourselves Americans. That is why we attended the event where the bill for dinner was, shall we say, high, even by Manhattan restaurant standards.
Dreams from my Father

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