cross-posted on Huffington Post

If anyone’s keeping score this early, this one beats a verbal gaffe or any blogger brouhaha by a mile, because it’s delivered by the candidate himself. Senator Obama, you just might have to kiss those Nevada union votes good-bye. First, before we get started and just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with big Hollywood money. May it fund my radio show someday. But a Nevada flyover to diss union members and miss the first presidential forum of the ’08 season? Wow. That takes serious political balls. Here’s the deal…

Barack Obama may be the media darling right now, but he should be held to the same standards as all the other candidates, especially when it comes to forums that are meant to give primary voters insight into people who want to be president. These forums and the debates that come later are the most democratic part of the presidential primary season. The first presidential forum shouldn’t be optional. Mr. Obama should not get a pass because his team says he’s too busy or that his schedule couldn’t fit it in or whatever is the excuse de jour of the daily campaign grind.

As I wrote yesterday, Mr. Obama will be in Las Vegas on Sunday, February 18th.

Then I started looking at the rest of his schedule, which piqued my interest. That’s when I received an anonymous email that was short and sweet and got to the heart of the issue.

“The situation with Obama and Carson City is worse than you note in your post — he’s actually going to be in California the day before the forum for fundraisers with the DreamWorks people, and will be *flying over Nevada* either the night before or the day of the forum. Considering the event takes place at noon, it would take almost no effort to adjust his schedule so he could spend 30 mins. addressing 750 union members.” – Anonymous

The event to which “Anonymous” refers has been widely publicized. It’s a big time Hollywood Beverly Hills fundraiser that’s happening the day before the AFSCME Nevada event in Carson City.

Some 700 invitations to the $2,300-per-head shindig at the Beverly Hilton Hotel went out this week, Andy Spahn, political adviser to Katzenberg and Spielberg, said Thursday. Katzenberg, Spielberg and Geffen are the founders of the DreamWorks movie studio.

Katzenberg has endorsed Obama, D-Ill., but Spielberg, a longtime supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, hasn’t made up his mind, Spahn said. Geffen also has not publicly endorsed a candidate.

“There are many people in this community who will support multiple candidates, but this certainly is evidence of the serious credibility and strength of Obama’s candidacy,” said Spahn, rejecting the suggestion
the fundraiser was a slight to Clinton.

The Feb. 20 event will be followed by a private dinner at Geffen’s house for donors who’ve committed to raising $46,000. …

Dreamworks trio hosting Beverly Hills fundraiser for Obama

So, on Tuesday night Senator Obama will be eating and enjoying himself with the beautiful Hollywood people in Beverly Hills. Good for him. I used to live in Beverly Hills and I still mingle with the beautiful Hollywood people when I can. More power to Mr. Obama and his campaign team for tapping that resource.

But on Wednesday morning Mr. Obama will… will what? Be flying over Nevada while every other presidential hopeful prepares to talk to AFSCME union members in Carson City.

George Stephanopolous should bust Obama right in the middle of the forum. The AFSCME members should know that Mr. Obama is doing a flyover when every other presidential candidate made sure he or she was in front of them explaining his or her views and policies.

I’ve said this over and over again. I don’t have a candidate in this fight and I don’t consider myself a Nevadan by any definition, but if you’re a voter leaning towards Mr. Obama the fact that he’s choosing to flyover where the first presidential forum is taking place says a lot about what this candidate feels is important. It’s not AFSCME union members, that’s for sure. I don’t care if he’s spoken to them before. Again, this is the first presidential forum of the ’08 season. Mr. Obama is the only presumed front-runner skipping it. Good way to stay a front-runner, I’d say.

As “Anonymous” says in the email, it would take no effort at all to stop in Carson City on Mr. Obama’s way to Iowa. After all, he has to FLY OVER Nevada to get there. So why is he skipping out on the Carson City forum co-sponsored by AFSCME? He isn’t saying.

U.S. Sen Barack Obama last week sent his regrets for the Democratic presidential forum being held in Carson City in a week, saying he’d be busy in Iowa at the time.

But what he neglected to mention was that he’d be flying right over Nevada right around that time.

Obama is scheduled to hold a Los Angeles fundraiser next Tuesday night, Feb. 20, then fly to Iowa for undisclosed obligations Feb. 21, the day of the Carson City forum.

“There’s a fundraiser and rally in South Central Los Angeles that day,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said. “That’s no secret. Then it’s off to Iowa.” He said he didn’t know whether Obama was flying from California to Iowa Tuesday night or Wednesday and that details of Obama’s schedule in Iowa on Feb. 21 were “not available yet.” … ..

Obama won’t attend Carson City forum

A lot of heavy hitters will be in Carson City as Mr. Obama flies over the state. Maybe his team feels he’s not ready to compete one on one with Edwards, Biden, Clinton, Richardson and Vilsack. Or maybe after being up late they’re afraid the candidate won’t quite be up to the Carson City forum on Wednesday.

Well, if Mr. Obama isn’t up to it, he’s just not up to it.