February 8, 2009


Slumdogs Unite! (FRANK RICH, 2/08/09, NY Times)

In reality, Daschle’s tax shortfall, an apparently honest mistake, was only a red flag for the larger syndrome that much of Washington still doesn’t get. It was the source, not the amount, of his unreported income that did him in. The car and driver advertised his post-Senate immersion in the greedy bipartisan culture of entitlement and crony capitalism that both helped create our economic meltdown (on Wall Street) and failed to police it (in Washington). Daschle might well have been the best choice to lead health-care reform. But his honorable public record was instantly vaporized by tales of his cozy, lucrative relationships with the very companies he’d have to adjudicate as health czar.

Few articulate this ethical morass better than Obama, who has repeatedly vowed to “close the revolving door” between business and government and end our “two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks.” But his tough new restrictions on lobbyists (already compromised by inexplicable exceptions) and porous plan for salary caps on bailed-out bankers are only a down payment on this promise, even if they are strictly enforced.

The new president who vowed to change Washington’s culture will have to fight much harder to keep from being co-opted by it instead. There are simply too many major players in the Obama team who are either alumni of the financial bubble’s insiders’ club or of the somnambulant governmental establishment that presided over the catastrophe.

Both the Left and the Right have radically misunderstood the clear signals from Mr. Obama's personal history. He has moved through a number of institutions without leaving any noticeable mark on them. He is, after all, a legislator without a single piece of legislation to his name. He wants to be president in order that it will be said that jhe was president. That is the entire extent of his ambition. Until he moves on to the UN anyway....

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 8, 2009 11:04 AM
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