Truth is the beginning of wisdom…


Posted by straight shooter on February 16, 2009 under Political

“A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.” – President Obama, Feb. 4.

Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared “we have chosen hope over fear” … until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.

And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An brazen executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. This followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn’t understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040. Then, Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent. Isn’t one too much though?

The Daschle affair was more serious because his offense involved more than taxes. As once observed in Washington, the real scandal isn’t what’s illegal, but what’s legal. The unfortunate thing is things can be legal and not ethical at the same time. What made this case intolerable was the perfectly legal dealings that amassed Daschle $5.2 million in just two years. He had been getting $1 million per year from a law firm … but he’s not a lawyer, nor a registered lobbyist. You don’t get paid this kind of money to instruct partners on the Senate markup process. You get it for picking up the phone and peddling influence.

At least Tim Geithner, the tax-challenged Treasury secretary, had been working for years as a humble international civil servant earning non-stratospheric wages. Daschle, who had made another cool million a year (plus chauffeur and Caddy) for unspecified services to a pal’s private equity firm, represented everything Obama said he had come to Washington to upend.

Stimulus-Hope You Like PorkYet more damaging to Obama’s image than all the hypocrisies in the appointment process is his signature bill: the “stimulus” package. He inexplicably delegated the writing to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat moguls of the House. The product, which inevitably carries Obama’s name, was not just bad, not just flawed, but a legislative abomination.

It’s not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections. It’s not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.

It’s the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus – and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress’s own budget office says won’t be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven interests and views that Obama said he came to Washington to abolish.

Not only did Obama say what he wanted to abolish but also that he wanted to create something new – a new politics where the prosperous pork-barreling and corrupt logrolling of the past would give way to a bottom-up, grass-roots participatory democracy. That is what made Obama so dazzling and new. Turns out the “fierce urgency of now” changed those goals, if they were real in the first place. This new age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington.

After Obama’s miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its trance. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that this president told better than anyone. This awakening took all of two and a half weeks!