Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Better use of funds?

I have italicized the portion of the interview below that should cause everyone in this country, no matter who they voted for, to consider carefully the priorities of this president and his administration.

The New York Times

It's the President's Party

Q As the chairwoman of the 55th Presidential Inaugural Committee, have you worked closely with President Bush in planning the nine official balls and other festivities surrounding his inauguration on Jan. 20?

I almost always work with the first lady. The meetings are usually in her office, or on the telephone. I just had a meeting with her this morning on the details.

Your friendship with the Bushes goes way back. You initially worked for the senior George Bush as a fund-raiser in Dallas.

I met him when I walked in off the street in 1979 and volunteered to help on his campaign against President Reagan. I think President 41 is the world's nicest man.

Is it true you canceled your wedding to plan a fund-raiser for him?

When I was getting married, in 1990, my friend Fred Meyer, who was then the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, called up and said: ''J.J., I have great news! President Bush himself is coming to Dallas on May 18.'' And I said: ''No, he can't! That's my wedding.'' I talked to my fiance, David, who is now my wonderful husband, and he said, ''Oh, sure, we can move the wedding for a week.'' It was a small wedding.

Your husband sounds flexible. Perhaps that's because he's a psychotherapist.

He is, and he also has a little international consulting firm.

Is everyone in Texas a consultant? You recently became a consultant to Hunt Oil.

I don't do lobbying. I work with Hunt Oil on some of their overseas projects, and I also help them with their charitable and political contribution planning.

Did Ray Hunt personally offer you the job?

Yes, he did, and his son Hunter.

I imagine such contacts prove useful when you are raising money for the inauguration. You are asking underwriters for $250,000 a pop.

We are raising the funds so that parade tickets stay at a price that anyone can afford. We need underwriters to help us.

I hear one of the balls will be reserved for troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Yes, the Commander-in-Chief Ball. That is new. It will be about 2,000 servicemen and their guests. And that should be a really fun event for them.

As an alternative way of honoring them, did you or the president ever discuss canceling the nine balls and using the $40 million inaugural budget to purchase better equipment for the troops?

I think we felt like we would have a traditional set of events and we would focus on honoring the people who are serving our country right now -- not just the people in the armed forces, but also the community volunteers, the firemen, the policemen, the teachers, the people who serve at, you know, the -- well, it's called the StewPot in Dallas, people who work with the homeless.

How do any of them benefit from the inaugural balls?

I'm not sure that they do benefit from them.

Then how, exactly, are you honoring them?

Honoring service is what our theme is about.

Do you think President Bush and the first lady like to dance?

I think that probably he enjoys a baseball game maybe a little bit more than dancing.

Does he have any favorite dishes?

The only thing I know he likes is peanut butter and jelly, and barbecue.

After the last inauguration, President Bush offered you a job as ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in Paris. What will you do after this inauguration?

The president has all of my phone numbers, so if he ever needs me to do something, he knows that the likely answer is yes.

Originally published January 2, 2005