Obama's Real Lobbyist Judgment Problem

Barack Obama was not his usual elegant self when he had to answer unrehearsed questions re his prominent advisor Jim Johnson’s association with Countrywide Mortgage, which Obama so elegantly lambasted during his rant against mortgage lenders. I am unconcerned about Obama’s lobbyist problem or his populist ravings. I take issue with the competence of his advisors, but my concern is the opposite of what Obama rhetoric implies.

I did a brief check on Jim Johnson, Obama’s late associate. He seems a perfectly fine and upstanding guy. He has done nothing illegal. His only “crime” is association with the financial industry. He is being unfairly treated just as the Obama fans unfairly treat the whole idea of lobbyists. This last aspect is the source of my concern.

Anybody who knows how to run anything in Washington or in New York financial markets is going to be – by definition – some kind of insider with insider connections. Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, two of the best DEMOCRATIC secretaries of the treasury, were both consummate insiders, rich guys with piles of money. You need guys like this. Obama would have to kick these kinds of guys to the curb if he listened to his own rhetoric. It is a lot like trying to field a professional football team and excluding any “insiders” who played for the NFL.

Obama’s attack line has badly backfired. He and his fans were going to run a lobbyist/insider free campaign. This is not possible IF you want to have competent individuals. It is a rookie mistake.

Obama fans are tripping over their own rhetoric. When Obama calls for change, they seem to believe that he really means changing everything. Our system is basically sound, the best in the history of the world. We need to improve and perfect it all the time, but a wholesale change is plain stupid.

Obama is not stupid. He is clearly smart enough to play the system and win. He knew how to make himself an insider, get a good education, make piles of money and win the nomination of a major party for president. But he may have overplayed the rhetorical game and will now deprive himself, and our country if he gets elected, of some of its best talent – at least for the first year until his fans stop paying attention.

Democrats point with justifiable pride to the good economy of the 1990s, but they do not seem to understand what helped make it good. Besides the obvious economic cycles, the reforms of earlier years and the Republican congress, Bill Clinton was successful because he did not behave like a typical democrat. He told us the era of big government was over. He backed NAFTA, NATO, welfare reform and free trade. AND he put the management of his economic policy in the hands of seasoned insiders. Obama rejects ALL of the things that made the 1990s prosperous and instead reaches for his models back to 1979.

So Obama should move on and stop with the foolishness. Now that he has the nomination, he can move toward the middle and give up that loony left purity.

Sometimes you really need somebody with the experience to run complicated systems. Being a non-participant means you probably have done nothing bad, nothing good ... well nothing.

Posted by Jack at June 15, 2008 2:25 AM
Comment #255621

Gotta agree with you Jack, finding good help in political circles these days is damned tough. Finding good help who can stand the vetting and investigations of an adversarial organization with millions to spend on such things, is damn near impossible. The GOP will testify to that from Abramoff to Libby to Rumsfeld, and very much longer list than this.

Obama is going to have a tough time finding squeaky clean advisors who are versed in American government and politics. No doubt about it. It’s one of the reasons we founded Vote Out Incumbents Democracy. We are long overdue for some serious housecleaning in our public buildings in Wa. D.C. And I ain’t talking about organic stains on the Oval Office desk.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 15, 2008 5:06 AM
Comment #255622


The problem with squeaky clean is that nobody can be by the standards we set.

You don’t know me personally, so I ask you to take my word for it that I am personally very honest. Some people give me a hard time about being “too nice” etc. But I work in a political environment. Some of the people I have to deal with are less upstanding. In order to accomplish good goals, I have to work with some people who don’t live up to my personal standards. There is nobody who has accomplished anything who does not have some associations that could be considered questionable.

Johnson, by all indications, did NOTHING wrong. But Obama’s rhetoric doomed him. All this talk about perfection will make it impossible to get any but the most inexperienced help.

Only non-participants are clean enough for the inexperienced to accept. No great figure in American or world history would pass muster today. Think of it. Harry Truman of Pendergast. Lincoln the depressive. Washington at Tomville glen. St Paul could never live down his pre Damascus behavior.

The other inconvenient truth is that anybody who is competent and successful in our country tends to earn money. They are attacked as rich or elitists.

We just need to be a little less anal about this stuff. Judge people by what they are doing NOW and drop this guilt by association.

Ironcally, this hyper clean lets real crooks get by. The real bad guys hide behind that “we are all sinners” shield. Our system has lost the ability to make reasonable distinctions.

If Obama finds a squeaky clean advisor - by the standards currently being used - I can guarentee the guy will not know what he is talking about and he will have no useful connections.

Washington, Lincoln, FDR, Truman and Reagan would not have made that grade.

Posted by: Jack at June 15, 2008 5:25 AM
Comment #255631

You have your mind wrapped around some real core issues here and I’m still trying to deal with it myself.

I’ve come to realize that OF COURSE Obama knew about and supported Wrights racist rants. But maybe, mostly, because he was after the political power that WRight could help him build. He sought out Wright to build his base. To create his political future. Obama has also appealed to other radials from the far left to help LAUNCH and BUILD his base.

Some on the left now seem EAGER to declare Obama really isn’t far left like his dearest former “friends” are. The left is quick to say Obama doesn’t believe, the stuff that Obama has actually said and they appear to be in a non-stop effort to recontextualize Obama’s most hateful comments.

All we need to know about Obama they say, is that he is “change”.

They don’t think we need to know about the discount on his house and his criminal friend somehow mixed up in that who bought the property next door. Obama himself was forced to acknowledge his “mistake”. We don’t need to know why he sat for 20 years under a bigoted racist paster praising the man and how he could have claimed to not have known that or why he flip flopped on that statement. We don’t need to know about Obama calling the “average white person” racist like his grandma. We don’t need to know about his attacking conservative voters who don’t support him as “Clinging and bitter Christians”. We don’t need to know that Obama says we should pay more for gas or that Obama will continue to keep America from it’s oil and gas, even while the Chinese are preparing to drill in areas we forbid our companies from drilling. Meaning within 200 miles of our own shores.

But that’s Obama’s record. One of espousing the most hateful propaganda and economically damaging agendas of the far left.

Now it’s all recontextualized and moderate voters are being asked to forget about Obama the Proud Progressive and are supposed to believe he’s really a moderate change minded man who will “bring people together”. Is that true, will Obama abandon his far left beliefs and move to the middle? Will he allow America to drill for it’s own oil? Will he lower taxes instead of raising them. Will he cut government spending instead of massively expanding it? Will he balance the budget? Will he end ear marks? Will he fix Medicare? Will he fix social security? Will Obama do in the future (magically) all the things he never did as a senator in Washington?

I sort of doubt it. I don’t think the things I am concerned about are of interest to the progressive camp and in fact, I think they and he oppose them in favor of a massively socialist, progressive activist government. That failed policies from around the globe are now to be dictated to the US.

Posted by: Stephen at June 15, 2008 9:04 AM
Comment #255645


If Obama finds a squeaky clean advisor - by the standards currently being used - I can guarentee the guy will not know what he is talking about and he will have no useful connections.

Your statement if accurate would indicate that it is time to compile a new list of useful connections. The old ones obviously are getting in the way of good governance. Definitely time for change. Lets get on with it!

Posted by: RickIL at June 15, 2008 12:02 PM
Comment #255649


I am not saying these people are dishonest. Obama’s man Johnson was not dishonest. But when you actually run things and make deals you must deal with a variety of people. Politics is compromise.

Beyond that, as a person learns more about his subject area and managing in a government environment, he begins to understand how the system works. It is not the simplistic input-output device inexperienced people think it is. It is much more like an ecology of contradictory and reinforcing factors. The new guy says, “why can’t you just tell them to do what is right”. The experienced guy knows that you can’t just impose your will AND what is right sometimes is not clear.

Often what is “right” depends on politics and political forces change constantly. Are public school scholarships right? Depends on voters. Gay marriage was wrong in California according to the voters. Now it is right according to the courts.

Let me praise Democratic insiders. Johnson, Rubin, Summers are all great INSIDERS. Throw them out and you have a poorer government. Replace them with pure new guys and we will all be sorry.

Posted by: Jack at June 15, 2008 12:17 PM
Comment #255655

“Will he allow America to drill for it’s own oil?”

In the last 7 years, the number of drilling permits issued by the government has doubled. Only 18 percent of the permits already issued have been utilized, while 82 percent of the permits authorized are just sitting idle.

The amount of oil and gas that is available for exploitation in the areas already issued permits is 4 times the amount available in areas that are being protected or areas that have not been issued permits.

Why hasn’t the oil and gas industry taken advantage of the sites available? There are several reasons. The industry is trying to force the government to issue permits in all areas, including areas that are environmentally sensitive. The industry is benefiting greatly from the supposed shortfall in supply with extremely high profits. The industry and the Republicans are using the supposed shortfall in supply for propaganda purposes which seems to be working somewhat effectively.

What does a shortage of supply mean? Ask Wall Street and the industry.

What it doesn’t mean is that there are gas pumps running dry, that there are long lines of cars waiting to be filled or that there are countries screaming, where is our oil? Why hasn’t our shipment of oil arrived?

Jack: from a legal standpoint, there was nothing wrong with Johnson, Sen. Dodd and many other Washington insiders taking advantage of Countrywide’s and other lending institutions Loans for V.I.P’s. Just because people like Johnson sent lobbyists to encourage people like Dodd to deregulate the banking industry has nothing to do with the loans does it?

Barrak Obama is a member, in good standing, of the good old boy’s club of Washington insiders who have been given the task of running our government, overseeing our economy and and protecting our nation well. Somehow, they always mismanage their responsibilities in a manner which is very advantageous to themselves and detrimental to the people of this country as a whole.

These people are competent and successful Just because they tend to make money using the government and the people as patsies, they should not be attacked as rich or elitist.

Barrak Obama sits in the church for twenty years nodding his and tapping his feet to the beat of the retoric (I bet there is film footage available), then say’s I don’t believe that stuff and the true believers eat it up. Perhaps Obama doesn’t believe the retoric but, if that is so, his resignation is about twenty years late.

Barrak Obama is a visionary! If what I have heard is true, then I have serious doubts about his visionary qualities.

Congress just passed an increase in NASA’s budget. This budget restores several of the shuttle flights that the Bush administrators canceled so that the funds could be utilized in other ways. One of the flights canceled was a COMMITMENT by our government to fly a valuable piece of equipment to the INS.

Congress authorized this bill for one year so that the next president would be able to inject his own preferences into the NASA budget.

The shuttle program is scheduled to be retired in 2010, leaving a 5 year gap between then and the scheduled launch of the new manned vehicle, the Orion. In the interium, the government plans to pay more than 200 million dollars to the Russians to fly our astronauts into orbit.

Many in Congress are concerned about the five year gap and are trying to extend the shuttle missions to 2012 while moving up the introduction of Orion to 2013.

Although I have not been able to confirm this (nothing on his website), the scuttlebutt is that Obama prefers to retire the shuttle program in 2010 and put of the introduction of Orion until 2020 so that he can use the money for other spending. If this is true, I believe it shows a lack of vision and leadership ability on the part of Obama. The Russians, Chinese and others aren’t going to be sitting on their behinds twittling their thumbs for those ten years.

Space is the new frontier, the future of human progress and the equivalent of the investments made begining in 1492 to discover and settle the new world. The countries that do the most to take advantage of this frontier are the countries that will benefit the most from it.

The investments that this country has made in new technologies has made us the leader of the world in this area. Nearly all of our thehnological advancements can be traced to the space program as their origins.

Posted by: jlw at June 15, 2008 12:57 PM
Comment #255663

Johnson was an image issue. Ir remains to be seen if this will damage Obama’s campaign. A bit premature to call this a mistake.

I believe the commitment Obama made was to have no lobbyists in his cabinent. That’s 15 people.
Are you guys saying there are not 15 competent people in America to run a cabinent, not involved with lobbyists?

Boy, that is cynicism.

Political campaigns may be mostly rhetoric, and Obama is a politician, but boy this seems like grasping at straws to me. Is this the best criticism you can make?

Posted by: googlumpugus at June 15, 2008 1:36 PM
Comment #255667

Stephen said: “I’ve come to realize that OF COURSE Obama knew about and supported Wrights racist rants.”

Replace the word ‘realize’ with ‘fantasize’, and I would agree with you. You have not made your words manifest into reality for having spoke them, Stephen, save in your own mind.

The majority of Americans accept that Obama did not take Wright’s controversial verbage as his own. And his adult life experience and record demonstrate this evidenced reality. But, if delusion is your cup of tea, it is best served hot with a twist of lemon.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 15, 2008 1:50 PM
Comment #255671

Hopefully the majority of American can understand what they read. I said that Obama KNEW about Rigths racist rants. Obama himself admitted he knew. Obama himself said that of course he knew wright said these things over the years.

Did you know that just a day after denying he every knew that Obmama came out and said that “of course” he knew?

You are so quick to recontextualize and protect Obama from the truth that you can’t even acknowledge something that Obama himself acknowledged.

That’s part of my problem here. Obama’s first reaction was to lie and say he had never heard or known that Wright said this kind of thing. A day or two later when the press was saying the race was on to put Obama in the audiance of one of those rants and prove Obama lied….obama came out and said of course he had heard Wright saying these things before.

So he lied, then only told the truth when it was clear he was about to be pr oven a liar. And people like you are still trying to defend Obama against something he has already confessed to. That he had heard his pastor making these racist, bigoted rants over the years.

But you are stuck in a left vs right conflict and would rather smear me than acknowledge what Obmama himself has acknowledged.

Posted by: Stephen at June 15, 2008 2:00 PM
Comment #255673

Correction, my post above was a response to David who seems to think I imagined that Obama knew about his former pastors ranting and raving agenda. As most of us can remember, Obama himself, after his denial, came out and acknowledged that he had indeed heard these rants over the years.

The denial of who Obama is coming from the left is stupendous.

Posted by: StephenL at June 15, 2008 2:02 PM
Comment #255676

StephenL, still demonstrating a lack of proficiency with the English language I see and now professing mystical powers as evidenced by your comment: “my post above was a response to David who seems to think I imagined that Obama knew about his former pastors ranting and raving agenda.”

First, you can only know what I write, not what I think.

Second, what I wrote was: “The majority of Americans accept that Obama did not take Wright’s controversial verbage as his own.”

No where do I write that Obama was unaware of some of Wright’s controversial verbage. Your quoted comment’s gratuitous lack of comprehension of my written word therefore, requires correction.

Community Colleges are a great place for Adults to brush up on the English education they slept through in High School.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 15, 2008 2:10 PM
Comment #255679

Some of you are still defending Obama claiming he never heard his pastor say these things. I think I can understand your confusion. Obama himself lied, he told you he never heard them. And you are taking him at his wording and defending his lie.

Here we have a CNN article that points to Obama himself acknowldedging that he had sat in the congregation at church and heard his pastor make such controversial remarks.


Why did Obama finally come clean? Because the race was on to prove he was there when some of this horrible stuff was being said…the race to prove Obama lied. So he came clean to try and get out from the lie you are still using to defend him with.

When I say Obama heard this stuff, I’m quoting OBAMA. So please, David, how can you honestly and in the spirit of this community and exchange sit there when I’m speaking truth and call me delusional? Obama knew what his pastor said, and he sat their for 20 years and never stood up against it. Why? No answer has ever been given. And I suspect none will be because it’s not pretty. Obama tolerated this horrible radical ranting because he either believed it and accepted it or because he was willing to support it in order to build his base…or perhaps he was to weak and lacked the leadership to stand up and fight it?

In any case, Obama admitted he sat their and heard it in the congregation, he sort of flip flops around on that, and it leaves us with some very serious, unanswered questions.

Posted by: Stephen at June 15, 2008 2:23 PM
Comment #255680

David, I’m making points, using links to substantiate fact, and drawing sane, logical conclusions.

And you persist in personal attacks and name calling. Are you a regular here? Is this the way you tend to operate? It seems more appropriate for some other well known boards that are swamped with flaming board trolls.

Posted by: StephenL at June 15, 2008 2:29 PM
Comment #255690

StephenL: Every politician has his allies and his enemies. The job of the allies is to deny the validity of the accusations aimed at their politician and promote the validity of the accusations aimed at the opposition candidate.

George Bush still has a few allies who defend him and deny the validity of accusations aimed at him. Some will continue to do this even if the accusations are proven to be valid, as many have been.

It is like your use of the propaganda claim that Congress is not allowing the oil and gas industry to drill new wells in America. The propaganda is not backed up by fact because it can’t be except for a few exceptions.

While some might wish that Obama supporters were different, we really can’t expect them to be so. Once someone has made up their mind to support a candidate, they are going to deny or down play the negative and promote the positive. That is just the nature of politics, especially in a system where thier are no electable options to the two party rule.

Posted by: jlw at June 15, 2008 4:39 PM
Comment #255692

Jack: I believe that comparing the Washington insiders to the NBA rather than the NFL is much more accurate. The NBA has used the officials to produce the playoff results which are the most profitable for the NBA. It has been so obvious that hardly any sports writers or comentators are bothering to deny it or defend the NBA.

Posted by: jlw at June 15, 2008 4:58 PM
Comment #255694

Didn’t Gorbochev play by the party rules, then when he had the chance he played a significant role in changing his country/society? Is it possible that Obama used Wright, the Democratic Party, and Liberal voters to put himself in a position to reach accross the aisle in a way no President has in over 30 years? When I hear change and Obama I hope for this. I think others hope for a reduction in the influence of Conservative influence.

Posted by: Edge at June 15, 2008 6:39 PM
Comment #255698


I am not saying these people are dishonest. Obama’s man Johnson was not dishonest. But when you actually run things and make deals you must deal with a variety of people. Politics is compromise.

I do recognize the mannerisms of the sleazy side of politics. I also realize that in some instances one might be obliged or left no other choice than to deal with less than credible individuals or organizations. But these would in my opinion be necessary only under extreme conditions when left no other choice. And even then all other options should first be explored when possible. I also realize that there are good people representing good legislation who provide a necessary purpose. I do realize that Johnson had done nothing wrong and like you I find it a bit telling that Obama felt it necessary to disassociate himself from the man. From what I understand Johnson relieved himself of the position before Obama put distance between the two. It is a shame that the nature of modern day sliming in politics insures that one must immediately put distance between themselves and that person.

As for the nature of politics being such that it draws filth, well I feel that issue can be dealt with and should be. You are making excuses for dealings in governmental corruption. So long as this attitude is accepted it will continue in an exponential fashion as it seems it has for the last decade or so. I have no statistics to back this belief, but I can not remember a time when back room dealings between luxury hungry legislators and people of little integrity have been so obviously transparent. What makes it all even worse is that people such as yourself like to shrug it all off as business as usual. Just the nature of the business. Well if the nature of our governmental business is patronizing the wealthy and influential at the expense of the rest we are in serious trouble. We imo do not need the type of people that know the ropes through this type of system. We need people that refuse to participate and are willing to remove those ropes that tether us to the un-scrupulous individuals who would use us and our legislators for less than respectable dealings.

Posted by: RickIL at June 15, 2008 9:02 PM
Comment #255708

The real lobbyist judgement problem is McCain’s. Charlie Black, the guy running his campaign, was running his lobbying firm from the back of the Straight Talk Express at the same time he was running McCain’s primary campaign. Only now that McCain has become the presumptive nominee is Black becoming a full-time head of the campaign.

This is the extent of McCain’s problem. Over a hundred lobbyists or former lobbyists on his campaign.

That includes Phil Gramm, who it turns out was working both for UBS and the McCain campaign at the same time.

Now, if McCain had always had these kind of indulgent views that you’re pushing here, it might not stink so badly. However, even after you patiently explain to folks how this is simply the reality of Washington, Your candidate made his reputation as a maverick by supposedly being an enemy to lobbyists and Washington corruption.

McCain talks about putting lobbyists in their place, but ends up placing them in his campaign. Obama talks about that and keeps his campaign pretty much clear of them. McCain talks campaign finance reform, Obama undertakes it.

McCain talked about getting PAC money and lobbyists money out of politics, Obama actually excluded those from his campaign.

You’ll find small exceptions and inconsistencies, but you’ll do so because you have a candidate who acts like he’s not part of Washington, but remains deeply integrated with that machine.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 16, 2008 1:03 AM
Comment #255712

Stephen D

I know you have to bring up McCain all the time. We recognize that both sides have this problem. I am saying that it is not a real problem and in fact we may be overreacting.

I think that any politician pretending he is above politics is dangerous and the only thing more dangerous is the credulous fans who believe him.


It is the nature of politics to be compromise and in the eyes of many outsiders “filthy”. That is why I advocate making as few things as possible political. We should generally leave people alone to make their own choices whenever possible. The expansion of government power leads to the expansion of politics.

When liberals advocate expansion of government, they are advocating expansion of politics by definition. If you don’t like politics, don’t expand its scope.

Posted by: Jack at June 16, 2008 1:51 AM
Comment #255791

McCain has a real lobbyist problem. His campaign is saturated by them. Back in the primary, he had more lobbyists on staff bundling for him than Giuliani and Clinton combined. He’s fired a few token lobbyists, but his economic campaign is being run by a man who had When you so maganaminously minimize the controversy your candidate’s campaign is stirring up about Obama’s veep vetters, the angle is obvious.

Your campaign is led by a guy who was running a lobbying firm out of the back of the Straight Talk Express. Even if you were to fire him on the spot right now, the question is begged: why did McCain employ people like him to run his campaign? Why did he take on the lobbyist of a foreign bank heavily involved as his financial advisor?

This is a transparent attempt to misdirect people’s perceptions, to distract people from a self-inflicted negative.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 17, 2008 12:00 AM
Comment #255802


I think Obama should have kept Johnson on the job. It was silly to make such a big thing about it.

Posted by: Jack at June 17, 2008 2:09 AM
Comment #255808

You’ve spent too long under Bush. Avoiding the appearance of impropriety is not an inconvenience, it’s a necessity for those seeking the trust of Americans.

It becomes especially necessary given all the corruption Americans have been confronted with. You may think that avoiding the appearance of impropriety is unimportant, but then, that’s why your party is no longer the majority power, and come November stands a good chance of not remaining in the White House.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 17, 2008 8:50 AM
Comment #255830

jlw Oh really? America is able to get at it’s own oil I’m just using propaganda?

When do we get to drill the massive oil finds at anwar? When do we drill off Florida and California? Why is congress keeping us from drilling as far as 200 miles out?

And who is spinning here, now? The left is working hard at keeping us from our oil and our shale and our natural gas. That self destructive agenda of the left needs to be ended. I suspect Obama will continue with the anti US energy agenda of the left as they seek to take down our economy.

Obama himself said it. That we must all get by with less food, less gas, less heat. He’s preaching the progressive lefts anti US agenda. We have too much, we live too well, we must lower our life standards and give our jobs to others. Our economy must suffer because we are undeserving and thus others in the world can have that which we no longer deserve.

I know the line. It’s a very sad line. It’s Jimmy carter putting on a sweater and telling the nation there is nothing he can do but advise us to get used to living a lower life style. To accept that our children will live a life worse than ours not better. This IS the progressive agenda. And Obama still gets caught preaching it.

I do not accept it. Americans need to wise up to what’s at stake here in this election. The radicals who now control the democratic party are sensing victory and all it will mean to our energy, our economy, our trade, our way of life.

Posted by: StephenL at June 17, 2008 4:11 PM
Comment #255834


What BAN is McCain talking about when he says that he wants to LIFT OFF SHORE DRILLING BANS? seems to me we do have bans and McCain says it’s about Time we allow the oil companies to go where the oil really is. Bans on drilling in the US, Anwar, etc are not my imagination nor “propaganda” congress and some states have moved together to keep America from it’s own energy.


Posted by: StephenL at June 17, 2008 4:22 PM
Comment #255910


Re APPEARANCE of impropriety.

The problem is that we have demonized simple business activities and sometimes things needful to make government work. It is an education problem. Many people just do not understand business and they see villians were none (or few exist). I have tried hard to explain something as simple as compund interest to some people w/o success. They told me it was dishonest.

Liberals who should know better are guilty of propagating this disinformation. When you talk about the lobbyist problem, for example, you are perpetuating ignorance. THere are bad lobbyists and good ones. Generally there are too many of them BECAUSE the government is too powerful and people want to benefit or protect themselves. That is the point of the system that should be changed.

Posted by: Jack at June 18, 2008 11:11 AM
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