- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2011

I am so excited! The president has invited me to dinner - and not just as one of the crowd like at a state dinner. I can be one of four regular people chowing down with Barack Obama! When I first read my email invitation from “Barack Obama, democraticparty @democrats.org,” I was worried it might be another case of selling access to the White House. But then I looked up the attached Web link and read the rules. I don’t have to send him any money to win! I just register online at https://my.barackobama.com/dinner-with-barack-alt.

Sure, the invitation asks me for money (and goodness knows the president can use it, what with the $1.6 trillion deficit and all) but it also says I don’t have to send a penny. I can still register online and have just as much chance as anyone who actually ponies up. They put that in writing, so it must be true.

There must be millions of unemployed Americans who want to tell the president what they think. Now they can do so - FREE! - and get a nifty trip in the bargain. The Obama campaign says it will pay the travel and hotel bills for the winners to come dine with the president. I was relieved to read that the “approximate retail value” of all this is just $1,075. It’s not every president you can trust to spend so responsibly.

But the good news doesn’t stop there. This free lunch could make me a star! Get a load of this: “Except where prohibited by law, entry into the Promotion constitutes permission to use each winner’s name, hometown, likeness and/or prize information, without limitation, for promotional purposes without further permission or compensation.” Got that? I hear Mr. Obama may spend a billion dollars on his re-election campaign, so he’ll be buying lots and lots of TV ads. Odds are I could end up in one of those ads. Or maybe he’ll tweet my picture around to the zillions of people who follow him on Twitter! (Do politicians still use Twitter? I heard somebody say there’s been a problem.)

Meanwhile, I’ll need to be on my best behavior because the rules also say, “Sponsor may, at its option, conduct a background check on each potential winner.” That makes me a little nervous. Sure, I understand that if I’m one of the winners, the Secret Service wants to make certain I don’t come near the president with a weapon or a cup of red slushie like on “Glee.” But why do they want to do security checks on “potential” winners? Doesn’t that include everybody who enters? I mean, that could be millions of people! What could they want to know about all of us that they can’t already find on WikiLeaks?

Reading further into the fine print, I found this:

“Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any person from receiving any prize based on such background check if Sponsor determines, in its sole discretion, that awarding any prize to such potential winner could result in a safety or security risk to any person or persons or could result in the disruption of any event associated with the Promotion.”

What does that mean? Would I be considered potentially disruptive if they found I’m anything less than an adoring fan like that ObamaGirl on YouTube? I can’t believe the president would use favoritism or cronyism in picking winners and losers. After all, isn’t he from that nice town of Chicago?

Maybe the president doesn’t want a repeat of that fundraising breakfast in San Francisco, where protesters paid $76,000 to attend and then serenaded him with a song complaining about him. I’ve never understood how those poor protesters came up with $76,000, but I figure they probably just got a federal grant. I guess maybe that stimulus really worked.

Now it’s going to be my turn to just chill with the president over dinner.

While the Republicans work the diners and factories in Iowa and New Hampshire talking about dreary things like jobs, deficits and Iran’s nuclear program, the prez can just kick back and relax with me! I can’t wait to hear all his funny stories about bumps in the road and not-quite-ready shovels. LOL!!!!

I am soooo looking forward to this dinner. What do you think I should wear?

Ernest Istook is a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma.

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