As you may have heard, Michelle Obama recently invited me to have dinner with George Clooney. And her own hubby too, of course—not that I think Barack really wants to hear my two cents about NDAA. As it happens, I know already that Clooney doesn't have a whole hell of a lot of use for my advice about his acting career.
Pretty charming invite, though. Here's what FLOTUS wrote, in an email subject-lined "A Little Fun":
"Thomas [she always calls me that, like a stern middle-school teacher. Does The Mich know how to tap my fantasies, or what?] —
"Barack and I know how hard so many of you are working on this campaign—and we're grateful for it.
"But sometimes you just need to have a little fun, too . . ."
Followed by a nudge to make a "grassroots donation" if I want a chance to chow down with the President chez George on May 10. Amount unspecified, though I gather $3 is the minimum. Not to boast, but I've dropped more than that in Vegas a few times.
The problem was that the menu was also unspecified. Had I ever told Michelle that my wife's allergic to mussels? Unable to remember if our mutual confidences had gone that far, I didn't want to embarrass the First Lady.
The hell with it! The way we'd all be shooting the breeze, my Mrs. could pick at her salad with nobody the wiser. We could always hit an In-'N'-Out Burger afterward before having Obamaniac sex.
Feverishly, I reached for my calendar. In my mind, I was already composing my qualified reply: "Dear Michelle—oh, drat! Don't you and George know that's the same night as the Parks and Rec season finale? If we can all watch it together, that'd be awesome, though. P.S., I make a mean onion dip."
Then an attack of unworthiness stopped me in mid-lunge. Heck, far from working hard, I haven't done beans for Obama's re-election campaign. Could it be she was trying to guilt-trip me?
With some misgivings, I do plan to vote for the man. I may even scrounge up a few bucks to send his Oliver Twist way between now and November. But compared to the shadowy thousands—or is it millions?—of dedicated folks Michelle's email conjured up, that didn't seem like a lot to take credit for. Not worth George's chef's time, you know?
Besides, if I did chip in, what if someone more deserving than me lost out? I suddenly pictured poor Paul Begala, stuck back in D.C. eating cold ramen as the quips and the mussels flew, my wife gallantly picked at her salad and Clooney and I vied for the ultimate trophy of Barack's helpless, thigh-slapping laughter by swapping anecdotes about the Toronto Film Festival.
Yes, George—I've walked the beige carpet a few times myself. It's in my hotel corridor, but you can't have everything. Well, unless you're you, I guess.
Anyway, I couldn't do that to my buddy Begala, who emails me even more often than Michelle. That's probably because she's lots busier, or else Paul just likes farting around online more than she does. Lately, he's started calling me "Tom," a pretty darn sexy upgrade in man-cave e-chumminess. Now that we're on this new footing, I may take to calling him "Beg."
Sure, GOP commentators slagged the whole dining-at-Clooney's wingding as proof of Team Obama's clueless elitism. But come on, we know better. If Mitt's behind in October, they'll be raffling off chances to sit in one of Anne's Cadillacs and ride up and down in the Romneys' car elevator right next to a heavily armed Ted Nugent. And if only they could still offer Charlton Heston—can they? Death's just a temporary glitch, says the New Testament—I'd be there with bandoliers on and an autograph book. Wouldn't you?
Still undecided, I found myself idly leafing through Glory Be, Pamela Buchanan's now obscure 1956 bestseller about the American Revolution's origins. Paused at "A Warning," her chapter about Constitutional Convention delegate Elias Alias IV of Rumfoord, New Jersey. My favorite forgotten Founding Father, Alias got left out of The Federalist Papers on account of diminutive James Madison's jealousy. Alias stood six foot two.
"Jemmy, I beseech you," he wrote in a private letter dated April 1, 1788. "Let us end this importunate quarrel over the Iroquois game they call Bas-Quet-Bal. Suppress my latest contribution to our shared project if you must. Still, I beg you and Hamilton to find room somewhere for this passage: 'Beware of leaders who seek to make of the common citizen a rabble. But beware as well of those who seek to make of him a bauble for some fancy ball's amusement. To be fancied as the decorative trinket on some ostensibly democratic Chief Executive's pinky—the fingernail grown long to dip snuff with his fellow actors, no doubt—is very nearly a worse insult to a proud American than to be candidly trampled underfoot."
Nah, I don't know what the guy was talking about, either. The real reason I've decided against tossing in my $3 for a chance to eat dinner at George's is pure self-consciousness. We all get along so well online, but what if they decide they don't like me in person? Just picture Clooney's cold eye and the hurled mussel when I gauchely bring up Bradley Manning. Think of Michelle's scolding: "Thomas, that's not a fit subject for dinner. "
True, I might feel different if Biden were coming. Joe's emails are so considerate of me that I just know our friendship will outlive this campaign. Win or lose, because whatever else you think of him, I'm sure he isn't pretending.