Bill likes Luke; big bucks flow
Share with others:
Tomorrow, the Big Dawg of American politics cometh for a $500-a-plate luncheon for an incumbent mayor who isn't facing an opponent in the spring.
The Big Dawg, of course, is none other than Bubba himself -- "Dollar" Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States. His other aliases include "Slick Willie," "The Comeback Kid," "Teflon Bill" and, until recently, "the First Black President."
Like a man worthy of many aliases, William Jefferson Clinton knows how to make money come to him at a fundraiser. His speech tomorrow at the Omni William Penn Hotel will be no different.
The incumbent who will be on the receiving end of the Big Dawg's largess is Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, currently in training to become our city's mayor-for-life.
It is Mr. Ravenstahl's sheer dumb luck to preside over a city where -- much like the pigeons in Market Square -- he never has to worry about natural predators.
It isn't as if Mr. Ravenstahl lacks critics or competitors on Grant Street and beyond. Even the boldest pigeon has to worry about occasional kicks from disgusted pedestrians.
Still, any opponent interested in introducing the concept of democracy to Pittsburgh would be justified in copping to a bad case of the vapors once the Big Dawg's appearance was announced.
There's fair, and then there's the fundraising power and charisma of Bill Clinton, whose mere presence will probably distort the course of local politics for years to come.
What are once-rumored opponents Chelsa Wagner and Bill Peduto supposed to do in the face of such an obvious fundraising advantage on Mr. Ravenstahl's part?
Are progressives required by conscience to take on quixotic political causes just to fulfill our romantic notions of what a full, participatory democracy in a major American city looks like?
That loud sucking sound coming from Downtown Pittsburgh tomorrow will be the sound big-pocketed Democrats make when mindlessly emptying their wallets.
The situation raises a question, though. In today's economy, who has $500 burning such pigeon-sized holes in their pocket that they're willing to throw it at a mayoral campaign that faces no tangible opposition beyond a few feisty blogs?
At a time when the Thomas Merton Center, one of our most dedicated peace and justice nonprofits in the area, is struggling to stay afloat, a re-evaluation of our financial priorities is long overdue.
My colleague and friend Joe Sabino Mistick, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who worked for Mayor Sophie Masloff, has already called on Mr. Ravenstahl to donate 100 percent of tomorrow's haul to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
That isn't likely to happen, but it's a beautiful suggestion on Joe's part. Because it is such a noble sentiment, it is destined to go nowhere.
For aligning himself with Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Pennsylvania primary, Mr. Ravenstahl is reaping the iron-knuckled benefits of being an original F.O.B -- Friend of Bill's. Despite the uniqueness of tomorrow's event, no one should count on it amounting to anything more than politics-as-usual around here.
In all the hoopla about PittGirl quitting the local blogosphere last week, I couldn't help noticing that nary a word was spoken of another local Internet institution -- Pierre4pgh, the mad genius found on the anarchic "I Luv Luke" site that is always good for a laugh (iluvluke.blogspot.com).
Pierre hasn't quit as far as I know, but his posts have become more intermittent of late. The last post from the faux Frenchman (one of three personas on the site) was Nov. 9. In it, he celebrated the birth of Cooper Ravenstahl, the mayor's first son with this:
"I have seen the videos on the Pittburgh [sic] News Channels of the students out in the streets happy. No burning and chanting up satan. Just pure bliss. It is super to see so many people happy and joyous over the arrival of one person in a very historic moment."
Last week, I got my copy of "Zombies Ate My Headlines" by those funny guys at Carbolic Smoke Ball, the local fake news Web site that has gone national with its ambitions (carbolicsmoke.com). Honestly, I haven't stopped laughing. This stuff is better than The Onion.
First Published November 25, 2008 12:00 am