Free Markets, Free People
Good news or bad news? What do my favorite political junkies think?
President Obama’s inner circle will likely be losing some key players. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reports that sources say David Axelrod, the president’s closest advisor, will move to Chicago next spring.
Axelrod is expected to reassume his role as campaign manager in Mr. Obama’s 2012 reelection bid. A potential, if not likely, replacement for Axelrod is current White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
The dominoes don’t stop there. Rahm Emanuel, the president’s Chief of Staff, may leave the White House as soon as next month.
Part of the problems of this administration –other than the inept leadership provided by the President – can be found in those which Obama has surrounded himself. That’s most true of any administration, but for this one in particular, it’s been particularly evident that many of them haven’t a clue, and they could only buy one with your money.
All kidding aside, while Axelrod may have been a great campaign manager, I’d have to say he’s been a bust as an adviser and spin doctor. He’s out of his depth. He belongs exactly from whence he came, running a campaign. There he has the experience and the knowledge to be successful. But politics and the daily grind of governing aren’t his cup of tea.
As for Emanuel, as much as I don’t care for the man, to me he’s the “reality” anchor there. He knows intimately how the system works and who within the system must be used to accomplish whatever the agenda is. He’s also, based on what I’ve read, been the guy who has tried to keep them more toward the center – not at all very successfully – because he has a good idea of what can and can’t be foisted upon the American people without losing political viability. ObamaCare, again as I understand it, was a battle he lost.
So whether this is good news or bad news depends largely on who will replace each of these people (same with his fleeing economic team). Will a political operative take Axelrod’s place who knows the in’s and out’s of governing and is better able to present the administration’s views? Will the person who replaces Emanuel be more radical and less pragmatic than the present Chief of Staff?
Frankly I don’t care particularly for either of the men filling the posts they have, but the story isn’t in the fact they’re leaving – it will be found in those who replace them and what they will bring to the job and how that will effect the direction of the administration in the future.
So the solution, of course, is to make things a bit more opaque while still pretending to be “transparent”. And how does one do that? By kicking the guy dedicated to that job – the so-called “ethics czar” – upstairs, and shifting those responsiblities elsewhere. Like to someone who is known not to favor transparency at all.
Obama transferred "ethics czar" Norm Eisen to the Czech Republic to serve as U.S. ambassador. Some of Eisen’s duties will be handed to Domestic Policy Council member Steven Croley, but most of them, it appears, will shift over to the already-full docket of White House Counsel Bob Bauer.
Bauer is an insider’s insider. And in his own words and actions, doesn’t at all favor disclosure of public affairs, at least not like President Transparency promised:
Bauer’s own words — gathered by the diligent folks at the Sunlight Foundation — show disdain for openness and far greater belief in the good intentions of those in power than of those trying to check the powerful. In December 2006, when the Federal Election Commission proposed more precise disclosure requirements for parties, Bauer took aim at the practice of muckraking enabled by such disclosure.
On his blog, Bauer derided the notion "that politicians and parties are pictured as forever trying to get away with something," saying this was an idea for which "there is a market, its product cheaply manufactured and cheaply sold." In other words — we keep too close an eye on our leaders.
And there’s more:
In August 2006 Bauer blogged, "disclosure is a mostly unquestioned virtue deserving to be questioned." This is the man the White House has put in charge of making this the most open White House ever.
Most telling might have been Bauer’s statements about proposed regulations of 527 organizations: "If it’s not done with 527 activity as we have seen, it will be done in other ways," he told the Senate rules committee.
"There are other directions, to be sure, that people are actively considering as we speak. Without tipping my hand or those of others who are professionally creative, the money will find an outlet."
So there you go, another political promise from the man who gave us “hope” and “change” quietly changed so that it still conform with the letter of the promise – i.e. there’s still someone in charge of “transparency” – but not its spirit.
If this isn’t a Rahmbo (Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) move, I don’t know what is. It has his fingerprints all over it.
I know – big surprise.
Ben White at Politico tells us:
Obama has been happy to be seen by voters as cracking down on Wall Street but those efforts have had an unintended result: feeding a sense that the president and his party are indifferent or even actively hostile toward big business, whether those businesses are Silicon Valley tech companies, Midwestern manufacturers or Main Street small businesses.
And it is more than just politics: Obama’s aides believe confidence in the general direction of White House policy has an effect on the willingness of corporations to hire, invest and push the economy toward a more solid recovery.
We’ve all heard about the $1.8 trillion that companies and corporations have saved while they sit on the side-lines refusing to invest or hire. We’ve seen the likes of Mort Zuckerman declare that the policies and attitude of the administration are decidedly "anti-business". And we’ve seen little or no evidence that anything the government has done has, in fact, spurred economic recovery.
So – what’s the administration’s answer? A public relations campaign where they essentially tell us things have happened we know haven’t, take credit for things they had little to do with and essentially try to spin their way out of the "anti-business" label.
Or, “business as usual”:
So the White House has launched a campaign to help instill that confidence, highlighted by Obama’s remarks on Wednesday stressing his commitment to lifting trade barriers as a way to spur economic growth. That was followed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s interview on CNBC’s “Kudlow Report” last night — following his spot on PBS’ “NewsHour” on Tuesday. Obama talked up the economy in Missouri Thursday as well.
In a Thursday interview, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel argued that rather than recoiling against Obama, business leaders should be grateful for his support on at least a half-dozen counts: his advocacy of greater international trade and education reform open markets despite union skepticism; his rejection of calls from some quarters to nationalize banks during the financial meltdown; the rescue of the automobile industry; the fact that the overhaul of health care preserved the private delivery system; the fact that billions in the stimulus package benefited business with lucrative new contracts, and that financial regulation reform will take away the uncertainty that existed with a broken, pre-crash regulatory apparatus.
But you see, businesses know all of that and they aren’t “grateful”, they’re alarmed. Not only that, they don’t see private banks and financial institutions as the sole problem in the financial meltdown – but they do see government trying to pretend it was all Wall Street and greedy corporations, while Freddie and Fannie have become half a trillion dollar financial sink holes that politicians don’t want to talk about.
They also understand that the Bush tax cuts are expiring, new health care laws and taxes are pending, new and onerous regulations are in the offing and the lame duck Congress will most likely try to push through some version of cap-and-trade. Add to that failing states like Illinois and California and the probability of higher taxes all the way around.
And then there’s the possibility of a double-dip recession.
Why wouldn’t business be sitting on their money given the “rest of the story” that the administration conveniently leaves out of their pitch?
This is a crew that has supreme confidence in their ability to propagandize anything and get away with it. And why shouldn’t they – look who is sitting in the White House. You’d have to believe if you can sell an empty suit to a majority of the nation, you can probably sell anything.
Heh … ok, a bit of an understatement. Democratic Rep. Eric Massa thinks he’s been a victim of “the Chicago Way”. And he has absolutely no use for either Steny Hoyer, the House’s number 2 Democrat or Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief-of-staff.
In a radio interview Massa let loose on Emanuel:
“Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn, Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) said. “He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote. He would strap his children to the front end of a steam locomotive.”
Rep. Massa describes a confrontation with Emanuel in a shower: “I am showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me.”
“When I voted against the cap and trade bill, the phone rang and it was the chief of staff to the president of the United States of America, Rahm Emanuel, and he started swearing at me in terms and words that I hadn’t heard since that crossing the line ceremony on the USS New Jersey in 1983,” Massa said. “And I gave it right back to him, in terms and words that I know are physically impossible.”
“If Rahm Emanuel wants to come after me, maybe he ought to hold himself to the same standards I’m holding myself to and he should resign,” Massa said.
As for Hoyer, Massa had this to say:
“Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me at all, never, not once,” Massa said. “Never before in the history of the House of Representatives has a sitting leader of the Democratic Party discussed allegations of House investigations publicly, before findings of fact. Ever.”
“I was set up for this from the very, very beginning,” he added. “The leadership of the Democratic Party have become exactly what they said they were running against.”
The allegations stem from an incident in which it is asserted that Massa made inappropriate comments to an aide at a Christmas party. Massa doesn’t dispute he made comments but claims that “political correctness” as well as a desire to make an example of a Democrat who isn’t and hasn’t played ball with the leadership is the real reason behind the demand he resign or face an ethics inquiry.
Of course, he has a point considering the outcome of the Rangel ethics probe in which Rep. Charles Rangal got off with nothing more than a virtual slap on the wrist (the ethics panel nor Democratic leadership requested he step down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, pressure from other Democrats drove it) and he still retains his seat. He’s also a “yes” vote on the health care bill. Massa, of course, is a ‘no’.
I’m not sure which side is right on the allegations or their seriousness (here’s Massa’s side of it), but it is clear there’s a double standard at work given the treatment of Rangal v. Massa. And one can only hope that Massa will change his mind and continue to sound off about his treatment and expose the double standard. As someone said, if it is true, it amounts to extortion by the House leadership (vote our way or we do an ethics probe). But on top of the bribery we see daily, I’m not sure anyone should be surprised.
The latest to be caught up in it is Rahm Emanuel:
News broke last week that Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, lived rent- free for years in the home of Rep. Rosa De Lauro (D-Conn.) – and failed to disclose the gift, as congressional ethics rules mandate. But this is only the tip of Emanuel’s previously undislosed ethics problems.
One issue is the work Emanuel tossed the way of De Lauro’s husband. But the bigger one goes back to Emanuel’s days on the board of now-bankrupt mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
So, lived free for 5 years and didn’t pay taxes on the gift (which, frankly doesn’t particularly bother me, but since Democrats would crucify a Republican official who did the same thing, I think hoisting a Dems on the same petard is perfectly acceptable), allegedly threw business into the lap of the person who was providing the gift, and fiddled while Freddie Mac burned.
To me the most serious of the three is the last. I see it as gross dereliction of duty. FM was fined 50 million bucks while Emanuel was paid $262,000 (speaking of fat cats) for obviously doing nothing as a FM board member during the time for which the fines were assessed. It isn’t a ‘golden parachute’ or a bonus for failure, but it is darn close.
I’d say a tax audit is called for, but then since Timothy Geithner would have to call for it, so nevermind.
Then there’s the ongoing probe into supporters of John Murtha which has now widened to include him. Allegations have surfaced that he may have broken campaign-finance laws during a fundraiser held by the same people now under FBI investigation. I’m just shocked, shocked I tell you! Then there’s Charlie Rangel.
And Roland Burris? Heh … “Oh, yeah, um by the way, I did offer to raise money for the ex-gov. Somehow that just slipped my mind during the hearings.”
Tell me again how it is now so much more ethical and honest in Washington DC since the Democrats took over? Oh, and transparant. That too.
“Just words …”