Throughout the years, I have met some interesting folks. I’ve met several famous politicians, governors, senators, congressmen, etc., I have also met some American Presidents as well, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Bush the Elder I met when he spoke at my University in 1988. I met Bill Clinton, the candidate, when I was having lunch at an Italian restaurant in Sunrise, Florida the Monday before Super Tuesday in 1992. I met GW Bush at a fundraiser in 2003. I didn’t have my camera for Bush 41 or Clinton. I did photograph GW Bush and have some great photos of him (albeit on B&W film).
So today I got the opportunity to meet our current President, Barack Obama, during a fundraiser at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. You bet I was going to take my camera there. Interestingly enough, I had a special VIP pass which allowed me to have my picture taken with the President and I got to attend a small VIP dinner with 14 tables or so which included a speech by the President, and other important politicians with the Democratic Party. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. It was akin to being a scout for the Phillies in the Yankee locker room.
So I arrive at the hotel and hang out in the lobby for a while. I see all the politicos walking in. Then I see Dwayne Wade and say hello to him. Minutes later, all the politicos there, certain local Congressmen all come by to get their photo with Wade.
Now to be able to go, you have to days in advance give the Secret Service your name, address, and ss#. Well Cigar Mike had no trouble getting in.
So I sign in and give them my photo bag and gear which the security guy checked with me. I turned on my camera and showed him it was a camera and the pics I had on the card: a model I photographed last Saturday in the Glades and pics from Shenandoah. Interestingly enough, he lived near there and we started to chat about the snowstorm that hit the area last week when I was there.
I then am led down a hallway with three doors. The door where the general cocktail reception will be held (these folks paid $500 per ticket and will get a short visit from the Prez); the door with the folks who had two stars on their tag (the big wigs); and then the folks who had the one star on their tag (the intermediate big wigs). I was in the middle group. In the two star group were the celebrities and the politicians. The crème of the Dems: Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Wexler, Congressman Grayson, Congresswoman Wasserman-Shultz, Congressman Meek, Senator Nelson, and others. But all the attention was not on them, it was on Dwayne Wade, Alonzo Mourning, and Jason Taylor. I wasn’t allowed in that room; but no big deal. The folks would walk into my room shortly thereafter to have dinner with the President.
I was bemused in the room by the folks there. Folks like Roy Black and his wife, and other big money donors. I saw one guy who looked familiar to me too. I asked a friend of mine who he was. He tells me, “It’s Emilio Estefan.” So Emilio was there too. I also saw an interesting machine there. It’s called “Instant Replay” and they had a program on it called “Potus Only.” You press certain buttons on it and it plays “Hail to the Chief” or other tunes. Button on it said “Armed Forces” and then the different services. You press a button and an instant band theme from the armed forces too.
So a guy with the Presidential Detail comes in after about an hour and tells us to get in the photo line. While in line, everybody walked in. Alonzo, JT, Wade, Pelosi, etc. Then all these folks got out of the line to take pics of Jason Taylor. He got more attention than Pelosi. After 15 minutes or so, President Obama walks in and the photo line begins. I stand there and talk to a bunch of friends, partners, and associates of mine, many who are Republican, and I note how ironic that here I am, Cigar Mike, in a line to have my picture taken with the President, with whom I disagree on nearly every policy. A friend of mine, and a Democrat tells me, well “he is our President, politics aside.” I told him, “I agree.” While I disagree with him, he is the President and I will be respectful and take a photo with him. I then think it’s funny cause I cannot imagine any liberal or other leftist even considering taking their picture with GW Bush and being respectful towards him.
And then while there were a few folks in front of me zipping through the photo line, I could only think of the famous lines uttered by Michael Corleone in Godfather II, “We’re all part of the same hypocrisy.” You see folks; there were people there who are as right wing as they come. In fact, at GOP fundraisers, I’ve seen many Dems there too. So I was asked by someone, “why are there GOP folks there donating so much money to the Dems?” It’s simple folks. It’s called access. You get access with only one thing – dollars. In the true scheme of things, there are no real political parties. There is only money and access. They will take your money even if you give the same amount to the other side. And the more money you give, the more they will listen to you. It’s really amazing when you come to think about it. They don’t really care about regular folks. No one does. Unless that regular folk coughs up a few hundred grand or so. So here I was, myself and my GOP friends, 5 feet away from Congressman Grayson. You think he saw us as folks that want people to die? No. He saw us as folks that probably paid a lot of money to be there, so he was most friendly with others and us in line. None of these folks are heroes. They are mere politicians. No different from any other politicians. In fact, this Dem fundraiser was no different than the GOP fundraisers I’ve gone too. They both had their share of women with excessive plastic surgery; bloated and balding men with lots of money; and young volunteers with the belief that these people are different from everybody else and that they are making a difference. Sorry to burst your bubble folks. But only money is spoken here. I think 1.5 million dollars was raised at the dinner I attended for 100 seats at 15 tables. Do the math. Unless you have the money, don’t even think you could have a seat here.
At the dinner, which followed, a few others and myself went towards the real stars there, JT, Wade, and Zo. We had our pictures taken with them and chatted up with them for a bit. We were seated and then the politicians started their speeches. Senator Nelson and the head of the Dem. Congressional Committee all patting themselves on the back and telling everyone that with additional contributions, they intend on holding the current seats and gaining more seats in the Congress. Wasserman-Shultz was there and introduced Speaker Pelosi who introduced the President.
I was snapping away of course and took about a few hundred images. I will say that the President gave a speech without a teleprompter and was coherent. He touted all he has done while in office and the legislation coming up. Then he notes that the GOP got them in the mess they are in and have no business criticizing their “change.” In the same breath, he then says that he welcomes a healthy opposition. But what do you expect? I was in their locker room. They say the same things about us that we say about them. We’re all part of the hypocrisy; pure and simple. It’s all about the money. There were no moveon.org folks there, or radical leftwing bloggers. Just folks with lots of money. Interestingly enough, many of the Dems I spoke to all told me how much they dislike Pelosi and how bad she was for the party; all telling me that they need someone like Tip O’Neil who wasn’t so damn polarizing and a political hack. But when she came out; they all applauded her and sang her praise.
After the President spoke, lots of folks took off leaving the untouched and quite tasty filet mignon on their tables to be thrown out. I asked one of the waiters there for a box saying I’d take it home. It was fantastic. I was told they were not allowed to allow food outside the Hotel for health reasons. Great, I figure. All these politicians who love to talk about the regular common man, who’d love to be able to eat a steak, throwing their food away. Oy vay!
So you may ask, “Cigar Mike, why are you there and why do you shake his hand?” Simple. I’m there cause I have connections and I will not pass up a photographic opportunity such as being able to photograph the President of the United States. Why do I shake his hand? Well, he’s my President, even if I don’t agree with him and frankly, I wanted to show the leftist nuts out there that unlike them, we can show respect for the President even if we don’t agree with him. Their memories are too short, but we remember how they treated GW Bush. But as they say, tomorrow it will all be history and I’ll continue my fight to keep the Dems policies from becoming law by focusing on the real issues out there and not on the ridiculous like those birther folks that were across the street from the hotel.
It was my turn to meet the President and I told him “it is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President.” I shook his hand, he told me “thank you for all your help,” a photo was taken, and I was on my way as the next person got his turn to take his photo with the President.