Dear President Obama: I'm writing to wish you many happy returns on your 49th birthday next Wednesday, and also to explain why I declined to add my name to the card that Mrs. Obama asked me and several million of your closest admirers to sign.
Michelle's request came in an e-mail from the Organizing for America campaign unit, and it mentioned the health-care and Wall Street reform measures as two reasons why this has been a "hectic" year for you. I'll say.
But I was troubled by another part of Michelle's message that reminded me of the birthday cards I used to get from my grandmother. For years, I read each card carefully until I realized the words were just being churned out by some folks at Hallmark -- pretty much the way I imagine DNC staffers help you and Michelle. So after a while, I'd skip the sentiment and just turn the card upside down until the crisp five-dollar bill fell out.
At least grandma didn't add a P.S., seeking contributions. How much did Mrs. Obama have in mind when she asked those who signed your electronic card, "Now can you make a donation to help us take on the year ahead?"
Two days later, I got an e-mail from "Mitch" -- I assume that's Mitch Stewart, head of Organizing for America -- stating that nearly a million people had already signed your card, and "Should we add your name before we deliver it to the President?" I must say, your team is selling the birthday bit with almost as much gusto as Glenn Beck uses to hawk gold coins.
It's a good thing I've cleared your organization from my Spam filter, because the messages arrive with remarkable frequency. The day before Michelle wrote, there was an e-mail from Mitch saying you "still need 2 donations from (my town)" to help Democrats running this fall. Funny thing, Mitch sent the same e-mail to several of my friends, and it seems in every town you "still need 2 donations."
Maybe you've lost track, but just two days before Mitch wrote, you sent me an e-mail saying you were "relying on me" and would I "Please donate $5 or more today." And in the same week, Joe Biden wrote about your "By the People Fund," which hopes to have 3 million people donate "$5 or more."
OK, I get it: Republicans pose a serious threat in the mid-term elections; Fox News and its cohorts like Andrew Breitbart, the unrepentant blogger, are distorting the message, and you need to rally the base and fund the effort. I just wish you'd let Mitch handle more of it while you focus on the Presidential stuff.
Speaking of which, I see that the White House now sends out "Your Daily Snapshot" to e-mail subscribers. The other day the snapshot was of you buying a sandwich at the Tastee Sub Shop in Edison, N.J.; another was of you and your family hiking on Cadillac Mountain in Maine. These are all good campaign images, the kind I assumed you'd be sending out early in 2012.
But back to the birthday thing. Did you know that on Franklin Roosevelt's 52nd birthday in 1934 he received over 100,000 telegrams at the White House, including one that was 1,200 feet long and had over 40,000 signatures -- yet not one, as far as presidential scholars can determine, contained money?
However, when George W. Bush turned 61 in 2007, his wife Laura sent an e-mail to GOP supporters with the heartfelt message, "Please consider commemorating President Bush's 61st birthday with a gift our entire Party can share," and she suggested $61 a pop. So, who's your model?
I'm not sending you $49 this year, just these two cents: There are a lot of us rooting for you to finish fixing the serious problems you inherited as well as a few new ones that have come along since you took office. We know it's tough, and we understand it's expensive. But keep the e-mail pleas to a minimum, go easy on the White House photo feeds, don't waste too much time dropping in on shows like "The View," and tell Michelle that five bucks in your birthday card is plenty.
This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He's also the long-time host of "Candid Camera." A collection of his DVDs is available at www.candidcamera.com.