Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | July 17, 2008

Hobknobbing With The Rich And Famous

John McCain will be in West Michigan today.  He will be meeting some well-heeled supporters at the Lake Michigan home of Peter Secchia, the Ambassador to Italy during the elder Bush’s administration.  If you want to attend this “event,” it will cost you $1,000.00 per person.  Oh, you would like your picture taken with McCain?  That will be $2,300.00.  Make it $4,600.00 if you want your wife in the picture.

In all fairness, this is a fundraiser; so you should expect to shell out big bucks to attend.  I have no doubt that the thousand-dollar bill is just the entry fee for many of the attendees.  It gets them in the gate.  Once inside, however, I imagine that a good bunch of these folks will be writing checks for many times that amount.  Personally, this would be the last place in the world where I’d put a thousand bucks.  But to each his own.  As a practicing Hollander, I am really into “free” when it comes to politics, especially since it’s the one place where you never get what you pay for.

When “W” was running for reelection, I saw him in Grand Haven, Michigan for free.  Well, I sort of saw him.  He was in the stairwell of a campaign bus waving out the window as he and his entourage passed through town.  The tricky part for the spectator was trying to pick out which of the four or five identical buses he was on.  I’m still not sure whether all of these buses were needed for the folks accompanying Bush, or whether the extra buses were just decoys.  In any case, by the time I spotted him, I think the total time I actually saw George was about 1.3 seconds, give or take a fraction of a second.

I also shook hands with Michigan Governor John Engler once, while he was still governor—also for free.    As the Engler story goes, I was coming out of the men’s room at a country club in Muskegon Michigan.  Since golf is a useless, time-consuming (and expensive) game, a country club would normally be the last place that you would find me.  But I was there to hear Engler speak.

As soon as Engler finished his speech, I rushed to the restroom; I would have gone sooner, but I didn’t want to appear rude to Engler—as though anyone would have noticed had I slipped out.  Well, I emerged from the restroom with my hands still wet, and I was rubbing them together to get them to dry, and just as I opened the door, Engler walked by so I shook his hand—with my still somewhat wet hand.  He has a very soft, warm, fleshy handshake.  Almost like shaking hands with Teddy Ruxpin.  Kind of what you would expect from a big guy like Engler.  And that is how I came to have a story of how John Engler aided in drying my hands after a trip to the restoom.

Several years before the Engler incident, I walked and talked a bit with Tip O’Neill in the Dayton, Ohio airport. Most people over a certain cutoff age for youth remember Tip as Speaker of the House during the Reagan administration.  He was one of those Democrat dinosaurs who once roamed the Earth in droves chewing up livelihoods and spitting out money in the other direction toward those who had no livelihoods and were proud of it.  Today, old Kennedy is about the last living specimen around.  He belongs in a museum somewhere, but they still let him roam the halls of congress.  Some say he is destined to roam forever, in search of a tax increase he doesn’t like.

But back to Tip O’Neill.  Regardless of what you thought of his politics, O’Neill was a classy guy who seemed to have all the time in the world to talk with a poor sap who was really just after his autograph.  I still have that autograph—on the front of an old paper airline ticket jacket.  Do you remember paper airline tickets and the jackets they came in?  Maybe someday I’ll be able to sell mine for a thousand bucks or so—probably more for the novelty of the jacket rather than because it has Tip O’Neill’s signature on it.  I could then take that money and use it to attend a presidential candidate’s fundraiser and photo op.  And so it goes.

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