San Diego Union Tribune

October 8, 2007

My friends George and James

I do so love getting personal letters from George Bush.

That's what I said – from the president of the United States.

Imagine what an item I'll be at parties when I casually mention that George sent his most recent letter just last month, and that he addressed it “Dear Dana.”

Or when I remark that I am also on friendly terms with James Carville, the famous Democratic operative and TV news show hotshot who has started sending me notes as well.

Of course, both guys are asking me for money, but I don't care. I do admit I'm curious to know how I simultaneously showed up on both Democratic and Republican fundraising lists. But so long as my money is green, these two guys probably don't care, either.

Now I am a little perplexed by some of the wording Bush – uh, George – uses in his correspondence, and not because of the president's famed tendency for grammatical gaffes and tortured syntax. Heck. It's a letter from the president. I can get beyond that.

It's when he calls me a “grass-roots activist” that I grow a bit baffled.



I think the last time I actually got involved in politics – rather than just reporting on it from the outside – was when I ran for school secretary in the fourth grade, donned a robot costume, gave a robotic campaign speech, got laughed off the stage and sort of lost my appetite for the campaign trail.



Today, in my capacity as a political reporter, I'm not supposed to take sides in these presidential election matters. I may have a few opinions that I keep to myself, but you are not supposed to know about them.

So it concerns me when George identifies me as an activist who likes to “put up the yard signs, knock on the doors, make the phone calls and do what's necessary to win and elect a Republican president and Congress.”

As if I had time for this.

Now George does seem to know me well enough to hit me up for money. And lots of it. He comes right out and asks me to make an online contribution of $1,000, $500 or whatever I can afford.

As if I had the bank account for that.



My most recent letter from Carville is dated Sept. 27, and he addresses it, “Dear Friend.”

Now I've actually sat right next to Mr. Carville – uh, my friend James – at our neighborhood cafe. I've watched him eat up a plate of eggs and squint at his Washington Post, and I've marveled that his face is even more angular in person than it appears on CNN.

To be perfectly honest, my friend James wouldn't know me from a doughnut on the cafe pastry shelf.

Still, his is another of those letters I can leave open on the dining table when friends come for dinner. James makes it seem it's up to me – all on my lonesome – to “make sure we've got what we need to hit back as soon as the fur starts flying” in the presidential election. I have to admit, this makes me feel important.

He isn't quite as ambitious as George in the money department. James only asks me to contribute $50, $75 “or more” to help the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raise $2 million so it can solidify its majority in the Senate. Since that is a down payment on my daughter's American Girl doll, I'll have to chew on this.



James' letter is more entertaining than George's. In typically brazen style, James writes that the “Republican leadership is like a horror movie. Just when you think one bad guy's gone, another one pops up.”

He warns me that “Republican candidates aren't going to stop trying to claw their way back to power, even though they've got a pretty good record of screwing things up once they have it.”

I like that my friend James feels he knows me well enough to speak candidly.

Dana Wilkie is a Washington-based correspondent for Copley News Service and a longtime observer of California politics and social issues.

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