THE BLOG
11/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Foiled eBay Bidder Challenges Palin to $100,000 'On the Record' Dinner for Veterans' Charities

Think of it as a second chance. Or a second course in the "Dinner with Sarah Palin" eBay auction that you thought was already history.

Here's a quick recap for those of you who haven't been playing along at home.

Sarah Palin decides to auction off dinner with herself with proceeds going to benefit the veterans' charity Ride2Recovery. Nice.

Bidding ensues. The end of the auction nears, and one of the bidders is revealed as former Wall Street Executive Ken Morris (more on that later), and another is outed as author Joe McGinniss who is currently working on a book about Sarah Palin. As soon as his identity is revealed, he is no longer allowed to bid. He is cut off at $60,101.01, although he wanted to bid higher. No more bids allowed from him. Not so nice.

The winner of the auction is one Ms. Cathy Maples, an Alabaman, owner of a defense contracting company, self-described conservative, and big Sarah Palin fan.

Despite Ms. Maples claim on FOX & Friends that she was willing to raise her bid so that Palin "wouldn't have to go through that" (meaning dinner with McGinniss), it's likely that neither he, nor Morris would have passed the final test on the way to the dinner table, even if they had been the winning bidder.

The auction rules state in no uncertain terms that:

Governor Palin reserves the right to refuse dinner with a winning bidder if, in her sole discretion, the winning bidder is not a suitable bidder based on her subjective standards of suitability, professionalism, background and other factors. In the event the high bidder is rejected for this reason, the high bidder's bid will be refunded, if paid, and the next highest bidder shall be notified, and thereafter, until a suitable match is determined.

Palin had no intention of sitting down and breaking bread with anyone who disagreed with her on anything. The whole idea of this rankled Morris, who had hoped to engage in genuine substantive conversation with the ex-governor. There are those who would say he was already being optimistic in that regard. But be that as it may, Morris is prepared to make an offer; an offer he hopes the governor can't refuse. Here's his proposal.

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Dinner Part Two?

The "Dinner With Sarah Palin" eBay auction came and went with Ms. Cathy Maples, a grandmother who happens to be a military contractor, winning with a bid of $63,500. Good for her. That I participated is a good thing, even though I didn't win. As there were only seven bidders, each of us played a role in advancing the final tally for the benefit of Ride2Recovery.

However, I remain concerned over issues I raised when earlier explaining my participation:

There exists an emotional divide in this country that I've not experienced since I attended the University of California near the end of the Vietnam War. While leaving scars that thickened the hearts of many from that era, the ending of the war allowed for a healing to begin. Painful, but now mostly a distant memory.

Today's rancor, however, troubles me more profoundly. Why? Maybe it's because I don't see a catalyst -- like the end to a tragic war -- that will magically lead us to end this political divide. This period has more the odor of the Civil Rights debate that ripped apart the South during the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson; a rift that has never been bridged.

How, I'll ask Ms. Palin, can we work together ("we" meaning not just her and me, but all people on both sides of the political fence) to begin to fix this? I'll ask her a few questions that might seem harsh, but aren't intended to offend--after all, we must be honest, no? Do you regret saying several hundred times that our president "palled around with terrorists?" Do you really believe that providing health insurance to all Americans is socialism or fascism or Nazism, or that there are truly 'death panels' in these proposals? I'll likely feel compelled to suggest that she doesn't, in her heart of hearts, actually believe any of these things (if she does, then this will give her a chance to educate and win me over). In any event, doesn't she think we should all tone down the rhetoric? Angry mobs and gun-toting advocates can't be in anyone's best interests.

As the auction never was designed to provide intellectual meat as its main course, I'd have either been turned down under the rules of engagement or disappointed in the discourse. However, 'what-if' notions continue to nag me. What if it were possible to have meaningful dialogue with this woman who leads her party? What if intelligent minds that happen to disagree could meet over dinner and explore political ideology?

In the great American spirit of never say die, here's my challenge: I will donate $100,000 to veterans' charities for a second dinner with Sarah Palin and four guests, this one on-the-record and taped so as to minimize misrepresentations. In the name of fair play, my list of invitees will include a subset of Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Thom Hartmann, Oprah Winfrey, James Carville, Randi Rhodes, Arianna Huffington, Frank Rich, Mudflats' Jeanne Devon, Jane Hamsher and Shannyn Moore. On her side, Sarah Palin may invite guests as well (how about Bill Kristol and Glenn Beck?). The only additional conditions are that the dinner/event last the entire four hours and questions asked are answered and discussed civilly. No filibustering, no third party prompts, just face-to-face honesty. Hostility by any invitee will be cause for removal. No discussion of children, Vogue, Katie Couric, The Enquirer, or Levi Johnston permitted.

This could become a win/win for everyone: Sarah Palin gains political chops and has a launching pad for her ideas while dispelling suggestions that she fixed the first auction to avoid debate; progressives and conservatives finally gain an in-depth understanding of her intellect; and veterans' charities benefit from some much-needed support..

As for me, I get to be an observer to one of the greatest meetings of the minds the twenty-first century has yet to assemble. Tres cool.

~Ken Morris

kenmorrisKen Morris, a former Wall Street Executive turned novelist (financial thrillers Man in the Middle and The Deadly Trade), founded Morgan Stanley's International Equity Department in the mid-1980's. As a senior capital markets executive, he traveled the world and managed operations in New York, Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, and Sydney. His third novel, Evil Shall Break, is currently being shopped to New York publishers. Ken's offer goes out to Ms. Palin sincerely and in the hopes that dialogue might begin to replace rancor and name-calling.

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