Special Interest

One politician wrote rather candidly of the influence of big money on his campaign:

… I know that as a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met … And perhaps as the next race approaches, a voice within tells you that you don’t want to have to go through the misery of raising all that money in small increments again. You realize that you no longer have the cachet you did as the upstart, the fresh face; you haven’t changed Washington, and you’ve made a lot of people unhappy with difficult votes. The path of least resistance—of fund-raisers organized by the special interests, the corporate PACs, and the top lobbying shops—starts to look awfully tempting, and if the opinions of these insiders don’t quite jibe with those you once held, you learn to rationalize the changes as a matter of realism, of compromise, of learning the ropes. The problems of ordinary people, the voices of the Rust Belt town or the dwindling heartland, become a distant echo rather than a palpable reality, abstractions to be managed rather than battles to be fought.

This was, of course, Barack Obama, writing in The Audacity of Hope (pg. 137).  He goes on to explain that he doesn’t think of unions as special interests; he uses that term for ExxonMobile and the pharmaceutical lobby. Nevertheless, he freely admits the influence of his preferred funders (pg. 142):

So I owe those unions. When their leaders call, I do my best to call them back right away.  I don’t consider this corrupting in any way; I don’t mind feeling obligated toward [home health-care workers, teachers, et cetera]. I got into politics to fight for those folks, and I’m glad a union is around to remind me of their struggles. [Discussion of conflicts…] You ask yourself, just what does good conscience dictate exactly: that you avoid capture by “special interests” or that you avoid dumping on your friends.? The answer is not obvious.

A few years later, it seems more obvious to many. Especially since he exposed so much of his calculation in this book: he became a Christian for political reasons, and talked at length about the church asking little of him (in the way of faith), and how controversial he knew Jeremiah Wright was a quarter-century ago. He hints, oh so delicately, of his success in destroying his opponents through dirty tricks (Axelrod, of course):

But to [Blair Hull’s] credit (although perhaps to he regret), he never ran a negative TV ad against me.  My poll numbers stayed within shouting distance of his, and in the final weeks of the campaign, just as my own TV spots started running and my numbers began to surge, his campaign imploded when allegations surfaced that he’d had some ugly run-ins with an ex-wife.

Obama’s pattern was well-established by this time; his first political race was won by getting his own mentor thrown out of the competition on a technicality so that he could run unopposed. In a later race, he managed to get the court records of a different opponent unsealed and his team spread divorce-case allegations as if they were factual. And so on. He alleged special interest influence, while unions and Wall Street cronies contributed hundreds of millions to Obama in 2008; he outspent McCain approximately four to one and doubled the most expensive presidential campaign ever seen before.

It is interesting to see him describe himself as one of the 1% (he used the 1% and 99% terms frequently, even back then) and enjoying the luxury of travel by private jet, which he did frequently through his wealthy donors. But the concept of class envy and class warfare was well entrenched. Not that he personally believed it, but that it would get him elected.

I think I know him pretty well (he does not know me, of course, other than to call me “some nut in his mother’s basement” during the Bracelet Affair). Then-Senator Obama’s books lay out a great deal for inspection, from his socialist rhetoric to his racial resentment to the miserable relationship with his wife.  And he makes it clear that he knows no more about things like the Iran-Contra affair and other foreign policy issues than one would pick up on  left-wing news blips, despite his claim to be “studying international affairs at Columbia” when these events were happening. He talks about them, but knows (from his writings) far less than I do as merely an interested observer.

Barack Obama does not know America well, and America hardly knows him at all. I think that both of these should change; the future will be improved if at least one does.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle