Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama's Clay Feet News to the Naive, Honey for Naysaying Saboteur

You can't miss the commentary blasting President Barack Obama's for letting lobbyists take positions in his administration despite Obama having said no lobbyist allowed. I've been reading, listening, and having a good laugh.

Conservatives have been pumping the scare tactics that Obama's got the media in his pocket and "liberals will never let him be criticized." Only an idiot can be sold that nonsense. He's the President of the United States of America for whom more than 40 percent of voters did not vote. He's going to get a lot of flack, some of it justifiable, some of it not.

There are people on the far right and far left who've got their pitchforks sharpened and aimed at Obama because with his pledge to cross the aisle and be inclusive, he's more centrist than the rabid liberal conservatives said he was during the campaign. So, to paraphrase an old saying, I declare, "Blessed is the man who walks the middle line. He will be shot from both sides."

Neither will African-Americans back off and leave him to govern as he sees fit (nor should they). I've seen blogs by African-Americans worried that Obama is not so down with being black after all, and others that hold nothing back in telling the naive the facts of life about deal-making and Obamba.

The mainstream media doesn't know the phrase "free pass," no matter what right wingers say who can't seem to distinguish between people posting favorable opinions of Obama on websites and what the media's actually doing. That's why when I saw Campbell Brown's headline today, "Obama's hypocrisy showing" (see video below), I had to post her commentary. Later when someone is saying the media is giving Obama a pass, I can point to today's flap about Obama letting lobbyists slip through his administration's door--one of many flaps to come.

It's good that a CNN journalist/pundit speaks out because its anchors seemed rather enamored of Obama during the election and inauguration, but that only shows they're normal people. Even some folks in the country who disagree with progressive philosophy seemed to enjoy Obama's ascendancy because his election to office gives hope that we can work things out together. I think many journalists couldn't help but respond to the hope they saw in people's eyes, and Obama's a likable guy.

However, while some journalists may have had trouble hiding their admiration for the new president, I knew we'd start seeing articles about problems with the Obama administration and commentary shouting his flaws because good journalists by nature are skeptics. They want to believe, they really do, but can't escape the cynic's DNA curling in their flesh, and so a big flag goes up with them when they witness or hear contradictions.

Obama's Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's choosing ex-Goldman Sachs lobbyist Mark Patterson as his chief of staff is one of those contradictions. As Brown says in her commentary, Obama's made a production about the evils of lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Consequently, she's asking President Obama to say what he means and do what he says:
My view is simple: Mr. President, if you want to hire former lobbyists because you think they are the best people to do the job, then hire former lobbyists. Just don't hold a big news conference first to tell us how your administration is going to be so different from previous administrations in that you won't be hiring lobbyists.

... It's the hypocrisy and the double-talk that makes so many of us so cynical. Do what you think is best for the country. Just be straight with us about how you're going to do it. (CNN's Campbell Brown)

The AP reports there have been at least three high-profile lobbyists hired for spots in the Obama administration to date who will work for agencies that deal with the same issues the lobbyists handled within the last two years. This breaks Obama's rule that "no one who has lobbied on a set of issues within the past two years can take a role in his administration that deals with the same subject matter."

The same AP story also reports an off-the-record response of a Treasury official: "Patterson only monitored legislation on mortgage issues and did not lobby ..."

I'm sure some people will say, "Well, it's only three. Stop picking on my man Obama. Give him room to breath and do what he's got to do."

I disagree with that sentiment. We've got to poke at even the little things to send a signal to Washington the people's eyes are on them, and Obama needs to see that the people loving him doesn't mean he has a blank check to play them for fools.

That said, I expected these kinds of contradictions and anyone who thinks Obama is flawless and will never make mistakes or be out-and-out wrong sometimes has mistaken the man for Jesus. I have never seen a politician, even one who acts with integrity, be able to stick to every promise he made while running for office and that's probably because outsiders don't know how hot the kitchen is until they in it and cook.

It's easy to be critical of someone else, in this case a former president with a low approval rating, and say if I had that job I would do thus and so, but once you actually have the job you are privy to more information. With more information, you're bound to change your mind on something.

The AP writers and Campbell Brown are journalists (but Brown is becoming more pundit than journalist), and so we expect them to show objectivity and report problems. But are any liberals or progressive opinion writers criticizing Obama on the hiring of lobbyists? Yes.

The post that had me laughing is published at The Huffington Post, a news site that promotes itself as a progressive website. Speaking of the nomination of William Lynn, the man Obama approved to be the #2 at the Defense Department, HuffPo writer Chris Kelly says:
The nominee is William J. Lynn, who was working for Raytheon until late last Thursday. Since then, of course, he's had his memory scrubbed clean with a powerful amnesia agent -- not unlike the one in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind -- and now he doesn't even know what Raytheon does.

It's like he was never Senior Vice President of Government Operations and Strategy at all.

Obama announced that the revolving door between government and lobbying would be slammed shut -- wait, can you slam a revolving door? -- "for as long as I am president." And broke the pledge while he was saying it.

Talk about hitting the ground running. That's fast. (Chris Kelly)
And Sam Stein also scrutinizes the "not quite true" talking points of one Obama spokesperson.

This is healthy critique, something a democracy must have in order to remain healthy. It's not the naysaying sabotaging rhetoric of a Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. Aside from saying he hopes Obama fails, Limbaugh asked Republican representatives and senators to vote against Obama's stimulus package because he believes that if America gets on its feet and people go back to work, then that kind of success will help Obama stay in office. So much for being concerned about America.

Updated: There are valid reasons to criticize the stimulus package, but that it may create jobs and get Obama more votes later is not be one of them.

Yes, progressives and liberals will criticize Obama. Criticizing your own is sometimes a weakness with this group; some do it until the person they supposedly "like" is a savagely dissected eunuch on the floor. At heart, many progressives seem to have a knee-jerk response to authority telling them what to do or to government making decisions that must be made quickly without consulting constituents in detail first. Some progressives balk, envisioning an unrealistic kind of transparency, a clear plastic sheet destined to smother us ... slowly.

Nevertheless, I think conservatives who charge liberals and progressives will not be critical of Obama won't give honest criticism its due. I think what they want to see is Obama supporters viciously attack Obama the way progressives attacked George W. Bush. Do these conservatives live in a parallel universe?

While some conservatives criticized Bush, they didn't inject the kind of venom in their critique that they spewed at President Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary, or now aim at the Obamas. Do they think progressives and liberals should be harder on President Barack Obama than conservatives were on George W. Bush?

Recommended: The Dirty Secrets that Oil U.S. Politics and also "Lobbyist Get Around Earmark Rules," "Keeping them Honest"

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