COMMENTARY: Is Obama Star-Struck?

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  • It’s no secret that President Barack Obama enjoys rubbing elbows with Hollywood stars and celebrity rockers.

    Filmmakers Spike Lee and Tyler Perry have hosted high-end fundraisers for Obama; he’s laughed with supporter Lady Gaga and last week Obama treated rock star Jon Bon Jovi to a ride on Air Force One for a fundraiser in New York.

    So what’s the problem?

    Republicans accuse Obama of not being focused while the unemployment rate inches up and they insist that the president is too star-stuck to run the country effectively.

    Last week, the Republican National Committee released a Web video called “Meanwhile,” which shows unemployment numbers for  women, Latinos, African-Americans, and young people under clips from an Obama campaign video of Vogue Editor Anna Wintour talking about hanging out with “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker and First Lady Michelle Obama.

    Here’s the tag line: “Obama’s focused on keeping his job. But what about yours?”

    The GOP ad will certainly play well with the Obama haters, but for rational-thinking Americans, this is a classic Republican smokescreen and Misdirection Politics 101.

    It’s true that Obama likes the company of the Hollywood elite (who wouldn’t), but it’s also accurate that Obama relishes the money that Hollywood is pouring into his campaign coffers for a race that is quickly shaping up to be the most expensive in U.S. history.

    Hollywood is throwing money at Obama – and he should gladly accept it. It's the business of politics. Take the Obama fundraiser hosted by actor George Clooney last month.  The haul was $14 million – one of the largest single amounts raised for the president this year.

    Last week, Obama wrapped up a star-studded evening of fundraising in Los Angeles, appearing with Cher and actresses Ellen DeGeneres and Julia Roberts. And baseball legend Willie Mays introduced Obama at the California fundraiser and told supporters that he was thrilled to ride on  Air Force One.

    “I had no idea in my lifetime that we would have an African-American guy in the White House,” Mays said.

    “As cool as Air Force One is," Obama said, "it is much much cooler when Willie Mays is with you on the plane."

    On Thursday, Obama will travel to New York to attend his 154th fundraiser — perhaps more fundraisers than any president in history. Thursday's high-profile event is being hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker. The gala is expected to raise millions of dollars, and, in addition, Parker is offering regular folks a chance to win two tickets to the fundraiser at her home with $3 online donations.

    "The guy who ended the war in Iraq, the guy who says you should be able to marry anyone you want and the guy who created 4 million new jobs — that guy — President Obama and Michelle are coming to my house for dinner on June 14," Parker says in the ad.

    Parker’s fundraiser couldn’t come at a better time since Obama and Romney are running neck-and-neck. A new CNN/ORC International survey has found that 49 percent of registered voters say they would vote for Obama if the November election were held today, while 46 percent say they would choose Romney.

    “What we have to do is to make sure that we’re constantly getting a clear message out about how we intend to grow the middle class, how we’re going to create jobs, and how our positions are squarely in the center of America’s traditions,” Obama told a crowd of supporters during a fundraiser in New York last week.

    Obama campaign officials expect Hollywood to increase their donations since Obama announced that he supports same-sex marriage. For wealthy gay activists who were on the fence before, they’re now supporting Obama enthusiastically.

    "I've never been part of any event that didn't sell out," Chad Griffin, a member of Obama's National Finance Committee, told The Huffington Post.

    The Washington Post reported that some voters are already mocking Parker's fundraiser, with one tweeter saying: “Young people want Jobs in the City, Paychecks in the City.” Others say Parker’s online contest to win an invite to her celebrity fundraiser cheapens the office of The White House.

    I disagree.

    With Republicans claiming they’ll raise about $500 million to beat Obama, the president will need every cent he can get for the November election and it doesn’t matter if the money comes from Hollywood  – it’s green, it’s U.S. currency, and it pays for ads.

    “I think we’re going to win this election,” Obama told supporters in New York. “We’re just going to make sure that we get our message out effectively.  And that means help from all of you.”

    And, of course, Hollywood, too.

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