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The Day I Was Asked to Feed an Elephant


On April 21, I finally became part of the establishment. At least the Republican National Committee believes I did.

I received a letter from Ed Gillespie. THE Ed Gillespie. Chairman of all the Republicans.

Beneath a red and blue logo, from Ed Gillespie himself, was my name and address. All typed neatly and correct. Ed-I assume I can call him Ed since he addressed me as “friend”-just wanted to thank me for all the help I’ve given the Republicans. The only thing I can remember ever giving the Republicans, which can be printed in a family newspaper, is a few bucks now and then for campaign buttons for my political collection.

“As a fellow citizen who believes in President Bush and his agenda for a strong, prosperous America,” Ed wrote, “I am honored to present you with the enclosed photograph.”

My heart beating as fast as a company planning to outsource its labor, I checked it out. 8-1/4-by-10-1/2. Full color. Glossy photo paper. President Bush sitting at his desk in the Oval Office. Pen in his right hand. Phone receiver precariously perched against his left ear. He was reading some important papers. At least I thought they were important papers. After all, what else would a President be reading? My first thought was that the liberals were wrong. The President can do more than one thing at a time. Would a picture from the RNC lie?

On the bottom of the picture, against a white border, was the President’s personal message. “To Walter Brasch,” it said in readable script type. “To Walter Brasch”! How much more personal can you get? But that wasn’t all. The personalized script even thanked me for my support for the RNC, then zeroed in on my contribution: “Grassroots leaders like you are the key to building a better, stronger, more secure future for our nation and all Americans.” Below all that was a blue signature, which might have said ‘George Bush.” It could also have said “Mickey Mouse.” A busy President often can’t write legibly, especially if he has to sign a million or so photos.

Ed said he hoped I “will display this personalized photograph of President Bush proudly as a symbol of your support for his positive vision of a better future for our country.” I was about to put a flag on my car and drive over to the nearby Wal-Mart and ask one of the $7 an hour part-time workers for a picture frame when my wife suggested it would be unpatriotic if I didn’t keep reading Ed’s message.

He wanted me to confirm I received the picture in good condition and send the “confirmation receipt” back to him personally in the postage-paid envelope. “It means a lot to me to know your picture arrived in good condition,” he stated. If the picture was damaged, all I had to do was check another box and I’d get another one! These Republicans really care about me and the quality of the postal service, I thought.

They also suggested I could support the President with “a contribution of $25, $35, $50, $100 or whatever.” For a few more paragraphs, my good buddy Ed told me about what the compassionate conservative President was doing for the country. With my support-MY support!-the President would be able to make the tax cuts permanent and give even more incentives to American business. He’d be able to “enact a comprehensive energy policy.” He’d even work “to strengthen homeland security.” Ed didn’t mention anything about Iraq or Afghanistan, the health crisis, environmental disasters, and the current state of free speech. But that’s probably because he only had a couple of pages to tell me that I needed to help the President. He said we needed to overcome “San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi.” San Francisco. Liberal. It almost seemed to be redundant.

“We must counter the Democrats by getting our message out past the liberal media echo chamber,” he pleaded. Definitely, I thought! We need to counter the liberal Fox network. And those billion dollar media conglomerates that spew infotainment all day. And that left leaning cabal of talk show hosts. I’d be honored to get rid of those liberal media.

Ed needed my $25. Or more. He needed it for that $4.1 million he said the RNC was trying to raise during the next three months. He didn’t mention that the President’s re-election campaign had already raised more than $185 million, but I’m sure the campaign needs every cent to make sure that no TV commercial spot gets left behind.

Three times he asked me to contribute. It’d be easy. I could return the “Confirmation Receipt Form,” the one that tells Ed I received the picture in good condition, and just send along a check or credit card information. I could even “have an immediate impact” by going on-line.

In one package from the RNC I received a two-page letter, a one-page confirmation, a picture suitable for framing, and a postage-paid envelope. The information the RNC sent me REALLY must have been important. That was three pieces of information more than the Presidential Daily Briefing in August 2001 that a strike by al-Qaeda against the United States was imminent.

WALT BRASCH’s latest book is Sex and the Single Beer Can (Feb. 2004), a witty and probing look at the nation’s media and entertainment industries. You may contact him through or at


Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

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