President Obama has quite the social calendar this election season; he reportedly raised $15 million at the fundraiser hosted by George Clooney earlier this month, and is now scheduled to appear at dinners hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker and 'Glee' creator Ryan Murphy in June. While these dinners generate serious buzz (and cash) for the campaign, they are a mistake, both an affront to the office and a poor PR move.
First of all, it is condescending to assume that celebrity endorsements matter to voters, or that they will respond more favorably to Obama if he seems 'cool' and 'with it' by hanging out with celebrities. At the end of the day, the voting public knows that a president's policies matter more than his A-list status, and they also know that George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker are no better qualified than the average citizen to assess his fitness for office.
Besides insulting our intelligence, the campaign is also reinforcing the message that money and influence (not necessarily any kind of qualification) are the key to having your voice heard. It sends the signal that George Clooney's opinion matters more than the average citizen's because he has more money to spend; that only those who can afford $30,000 dinners are given access to the president. Now is not the time for the president to be gallavanting about with the 1%.
Most important, though, is the extent to which these dinners and the publicity they generate undermine the dignity and gravitas of the presidency. The President of the United States is a statesman, not a celebrity, and Obama has better things to do than attend these lavish fundraisers. They are a disgrace to the office and a waste of his precious time. The President needs to spend his time looking and acting presidential, not schmoozing with movie stars.
The sad part is that his advisers almost surely know better. They know that these appearances undermine his substantive credibility and reinforce Republican claims that Obama is a 'celebrity president.' They know that they run the risk of seeming out of touch with voters who cannot fathom paying upwards of $30,000 for dinner at a fundraiser. But they need the campaign cash, and they have no choice but to look to the 'liberal elite' to get it.
The Obama team will inevitably realize that it is a mistake to underestimate the voters, and to assume that the gossipy press coverage these events generate will make up for the negative messages they send. Too many more of these dinners and there will surely be a backlash from the American public. The President should start scheduling dinners with average citizens instead.