The other day, I received an invitation from Tom DeLay, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. Some people would probably say it's just a computer-generated form trying to elicit a contribution to help reelect the president. However, I felt compelled to reply:
Tom DeLay, M.C.
United States Congress
H-107 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Congressman DeLay:
I just received the invitation to serve as an Honorary Chairman of the House Majority Trust and to come to the 2004 President's Dinner in Washington. I accept.
Since you invited me personally — it said "Lloyd Garver" right on the envelope, and the letter started off "Dear Friend" — you are apparently familiar with and, I guess, a "friend" of my column. Perhaps one reason you invited me was so I would share with the other guests the views expressed in your favorite columns of mine. With that in mind, I will be prepared to discuss such things as the , , and the survey that determined that . I don't mind admitting that I was flattered when you said, "some of the best and wisest decisions will come from working together with exceptional individuals like you."
As a columnist, I have often been rough on politicians from both sides of the aisle. I have certainly not treated the current president with kid gloves. In fact, I have often expressed how appalled I've been at things President Bush has done and said. And yet, you still invited me to this occasion. I am very touched. Until now, I had dismissed the president's description of himself as a "uniter, not a divider" as so much political rhetoric. But because of your desire to include me in this group and at this dinner, I must view the Republican Party as the party of inclusion.
Similarly, I was pleased by your admission that "the Democrats embrace an agenda far different from the principles and ideals of our Republican Party." I think that such an admission may be the first step to correcting the mistakes of the Republican Party, and I congratulate you on your bravery in making this admission public.
I noticed that you put "M.C." after your name, so I guess you will be the Master of Ceremonies for the evening. I have a couple of suggestions about that. The Republican Party is often accused of not being the party of minorities, so I would lay off the ethnic humor. The safest thing might be for you to just do a few impersonations. You could start with the old, stiff Al Gore and end with the new, ranting Al Gore. But if you feel yourself losing the audience, just say how optimistic you are about America and mention the words "national security." It always works.
Now, to a ticklish topic. When I got to the end of the letter and saw that you were asking people to donate $5,000, well, frankly, I was shocked. You don't invite someone to dinner and then ask them to pay you for the privilege of being invited. It's okay to ask a guest to bring a bottle of wine, a dessert, maybe a side dish. But $5,000?!
Now that I think about it, asking me for a contribution must have been some sort of computer mistake. Someone with your experience is certainly aware that as a columnist, it would be unethical for me to make such a donation. So I guess somebody on your staff "cut-and-pasted" when they were just supposed to "paste." No biggie. Don't even bother trying to find out who messed up. Sometimes the chain of command gets awfully fuzzy. Besides, everybody will probably just say they were following orders.
So, obviously, I won't be contributing any money. But from your letter, it's clear that this dinner is not about money. It's about ideas, people, and, yes, America. So I know that you won't rescind my invitation just because I'm not contributing financially.
I look forward to seeing you on July 21st, and don't worry about me. I can just take a cab to the dinner.
P.S. If there is going to be Japanese food, I'd rather not sit next to the president's father.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
Copyright 2004 CBS. All rights reserved.