The President as Traveling Salesman

Friday, 22 Apr 2011 10:06 AM

By Susan Estrich

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The traffic alerts are already out. Since no one can ever tell you which route a president is going to take, the most that traffic-conscious Angelenos (I think I've included everyone here) can find out is where he's going and when he's leaving.

The news is not good. The president is attending a 4:30 event at the Sony lot in Culver City and is going from there to a dinner in Brentwood, at a restaurant on San Vicente Blvd.

In other words, he will be tying up every north-south street in a big chunk of the city, and maybe the freeway to boot, which is never a "free" way in any event. Then he's staying overnight — maybe Beverly Hills.

As one who has to get home from Orange County tomorrow, I'm already planning routes.

So why is he coming? A major speech on the environment? A new proposal on immigration? A quickie at a charter school near the airport? No word of any of that. It appears that the president is coming to Los Angeles for the same reason every other politician comes to Los Angeles: It's where the money is.

From the time he lands until the time he leaves (minus a few hours of sleep), the president will be raising money, the mother's milk of politics.

He will have his picture taken with countless close friends whose support he deeply appreciates — and he really does deeply appreciate it. He will ride in cars or have coffee or breakfast with an even more select few, and then basically wave and give a stump speech to a lot full of others who really are just there to show support rather than to get it.

Some people are willing to hand over more than 30,000 after-tax dollars for nothing more than the chance to smile and shake hands and offer support. But a good many of the people at high-dollar events are not there for the simple reason that it just makes a lot of sense to have as special a relationship with the president of the United States as money can buy.

Whatever it costs is chump change compared to what they have riding on decisions made by him and by his administration.

That's true every time the president sets foot in a high-dollar fundraiser. He's singing for his supper and with a very high cover. It's wrong for all kinds of reasons.

People shouldn't be able to "buy" a relationship with the president because the rest of us are too cheap to publicly fund elections, or because politicians have gotten too greedy to accept public funding where it is available.

The president of the United States should not be reduced to a traveling salesman who has to sell himself in the wealthiest parts of town.

Most people are willing to sit in the slow lane if the president is here to do something real — but not so he can dine in Brentwood.

© Creators Syndicate Inc.

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