Dupont Circle (still haunting D.C.’s coffee shops) – I received a letter from President Clinton today. I’ve been waiting for this day since I was a 10th grader plotting with John Scott and Rodrigo Pinchera how to get a then campaigning Clinton to join us for a hearts game. So, today was a big day, even if the missive seemed awfully close to a form letter requesting a campaign donation.
It was a form letter.
Bill started out with a reference to the Soprano’s spoof (I thought he wanted to discuss the theme music situation), but he just wanted money:
“Hillary can be a great president, but she needs your support to win. And she needs it now as we come down to the wire in the last critical days of this quarter. Come June 30, all the campaigns will be measured on what they raised in the last three months. We have to raise more online before then to show her strength and keep her campaign going.”
I considered the request, and replied with the following:
Dear President Clinton,
Thanks for your note. I have extraordinary respect for you and am actually a child of your legacy. Your time in office was a period of optimism and hope. As a college student in the 90s, I felt it was my duty and honor as an American to try and make my community and our world a better place.
I served in AmeriCorps after college, studied the Middle East and Arabic in graduate school, worked at the State Department for three years developing democratic reform programs, and I wrote a book about the process of listening to, living with, and understanding "the other" -- it is called Live from Jordan" Letters Home from My Journey Through the Middle East. (I would be honored to send you a copy).
I've decided that I will not be making any campaign contributions this election -- to Hillary or to any other candidate. I'm disgusted by the process and am saddened by what could be accomplished with such funds if they were spent in the Middle East, Darfur, sub-Saharan Africa, and in the United States for that matter. Our problems are too great and too widespread for Americans to be giving money to candidates to talk about themselves or to attack each other. I'll be giving my money to charity instead. If Hillary would like to set up a separate fund for charity -- perhaps devoted to stopping genocide in Darfur -- I would happily make a contribution. Maybe she can be the candidate that raises the most private funds to stop genocide? I like the sound of that.
Please let me know if I can send you a copy of my book.
PS, I did like the spoof, but I devoted my blog last week to criticizing Hillary's choice in theme music. Celine Dion? Terrible.
I’ll bet I scared him with the “child of your legacy” comment. Rereading the letter, it also strikes me that I’ve become quite an apple polisher. Oh well.
To the point: Americans are making donations to presidential campaigns at a rate that is making credit card debt feel inadequate. In the first quarter of this year, the leading six candidates raised $115 Million! On June 30, we’ll have numbers on the second quarter. Pundits tell us that $1 Billion could be spent on the 2008 presidential election. That makes me want to puke.
Imagine what a percentage of that money could do if devoted to stopping genocide in Darfur? The Save Darfur Coalition is engaged in advocacy efforts to persuade companies like Fidelity to stop investing in international companies that operate in Sudan. Without such investments, the government of Sudan will be pressured to stop arming and supporting genocide within Sudan’s borders.
Habitat for Humanity is an organization that builds homes for disadvantaged, poor, and homeless people. A $100 contribution would pay for a kitchen sink in the new house of a Katrina victim.
The International Volunteer Program Association is a coalition of non-governmental organizations involved in international volunteer and internship exchanges. Their website offers links to programs around the world, from the Art Corps to World Teach. Your contribution could support the work of unofficial ambassadors.
The 2008 campaign is pivotal for both domestic and foreign policy reasons, and I’ll volunteer for a candidate and register people to vote. However, as I wrote to Bill, why don’t we judge the candidates for their actions, including the funds they raise for the issues they believe in? Governor Huckabee can raise money for creationism textbooks.
When you get those automated emails and evening phone calls, ask what the candidate is doing now about the issues you care about. And consider contributing to one of the causes I mentioned, or something else you care deeply about, instead of enabling a 30 second sound byte about why candidate X will be the best.
Readers tell me that they want more Big Hair posts. One is in the works. In the meantime, my research on Hillary’s theme song has left me obsessed with Journey. If you want to see some Big Hair, check out this video. And if you have any idea how they got into those jeans, please let me know.