If you would no sooner vote to re-elect President Barack Obama than you would subject yourself to waterboarding, you can stop reading. This column is not for you. For a host of reasons, you get it. No, this column is addressed to those who are still considering voting to re-elect Mr. Hope and Change. Actually, if you have given up on Obama changing anything in Washington, but are voting to re-elect him because you buy the prevarications on the economy or his dissembling foreign policy, you can stop reading as well. At least, you aren’t taken in by that reform canard. This column is for those few Americans out there who actually think serious government reform is going to come from the current occupant of the Oval Office.
During the last presidential campaign, candidate Obama was lionized for his sapient proclamation that change does not come from Washington, it comes to Washington. Well, at least that’s one campaign prediction that came true. When Obama promised us that lobbyists wouldn’t have a role in his administration, he was cheered. Yet, scores of lobbyists fill important posts throughout the executive branch and have for several years.
When the Obama campaign inferred that they would look askance on members of his administration who cashed in on their government service by joining the influence industry, candidate Obama was lauded. Yet so many have exited the government through that turnstile that the energy generated by revolutions of the revolving door could probably solve our energy crisis.
When President Obama castigated those Supreme Court justices old-fashioned enough to attend his State of the Union address, pillorying them over their campaign finance decision in Citizens United, the liberal media sang hosannas and extolled his courage in standing up to the Washington establishment. Yet, when push came to shove, he was right there with the best of them encouraging the creation of a super PAC to serve his re-election campaign.
The coup de grace, however, was only recently delivered to his loyal myrmidons, by their most faithful publication, the Washington Post. In a shocking exposé, the Post recounts a virtually endless parade of lobbyists streaming into a White House presided over by the man who promised to cut off lobbyist access to his administration.
Describing lobbyists accompanying their clients, attending ceremonies, convening secret sessions with key administration personnel and basically having the run of the place, the Post piece was dizzying. Reading the article, most Americans probably thought they should change the White House address from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 1600 K Street, with 1600 being the daily count of lobbyists bursting through the White House gates to do their business. The worst part was that the Post was only recounting the admissions for one day. It was like they were playing the movie “The Avengers” in there, only there were no superheroes to be found.
I am hardly the one to complain about lobbyist access to the White House. When I was a lobbyist, my team and I entered the White House grounds with abandon. Though no documentation has been released about the presence of lobbyists in the Bush White House, or any other White House previous to Obama, few would believe that the daily admissions didn’t include scores of K Streets finest and most connected petitioners. The difference is that none of the previous presidents ran on a platform dedicated to reform the way Obama did. Undoubtedly, many ran against the powerful elite of Washington – indeed, almost every election in recent memory had the change theme front and center – but the almost ruthless disregard for specific reform promises is a unique feature of the current White House occupant’s reign. And that’s what makes it worse than the past. It is beyond cynical when one runs on reform and is one of the most egregious violators of the very reform promised.
Sure, Obama is not the first president to break his promises, and he won’t be the last. When George H.W. Bush infamously abrogated his pledge not to raise taxes, the voters tossed him out. Of course, they replaced him with one of the greatest rapscallions to ever grace the Oval Office, but even Clinton didn’t have the temerity to promise specific political reforms and then proceed to break each one of them himself, like Obama did – in his first term, no less. Kind of makes you wonder what kind of political-reform perfidy would ensue in a second term. Better if we don’t find out.
So, my dear Obama acolytes, you who view this rather typical Chicago politicaster as the embodiment of political virtue, you who intend to cast your vote for this master of prestidigitation: Please beware. You have been deceived. Our current president is indeed in favor of reform, unless it applies to him. In fact, he has become the embodiment of his own aphorism that change does not come from Washington, it comes to Washington. Fortunately for a nation weary of promises broken, the change coming to Washington is likely to sweep him back to Chicago.