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Obama Hypocrisy Watch: Obama Rips Lobbyists, Then Gives Them Private Briefings

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If anyone had any doubts that Obama rhetoric does not comport with his conduct, consider Exhibit A, courtesy reader DoctoRx.

This is what Obama said in the State of the Union address:

We face a deficit of trust – deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.

Yves here. The funny bit is Obama’s use of the phrase “credibility gap”. That was coined by the media to describe the whoopers that Lyndon Baines Johnson told with abandon while President. Does Obama recognize that he is channeling another legislator turned Chief Executive?

He is certainly exhibiting the same sort of behavior. After criticizing lobbyists in his State of the Union address, what does Team Obama (in this case, the Treasury Department) do but invite lobbyists in for a private chat…about the State of the Union address? And no doubt to tell them the tough talk on banks meant less than it appeared to.

The really appalling part is the lobbyists are so deeply embedded in the the operations of government, that the get upset when they are called bad names. Not only are they predictably blind to how corrupting their influence is, but they think their role is legimate, and have lost sight of the fact that the legislators and Executive Branch members that they influence need to have plausible deniabilty, hence need to issue the occasional stern statement about how awful lobbyists are before going back to business as usual. The fact that lobbyists are chafing at this necessary ritual says how disproportionate their role has become.

From The Hill:

A day after bashing lobbyists, President Barack Obama’s administration has invited K Street insiders to join private briefings on a range of topics addressed in Wednesday’s State of the Union.

The Treasury Department on Thursday morning invited selected individuals to “a series of conference calls with senior Obama administration officials to discuss key aspects of the State of the Union address.”…

The invitation stated, “The White House is encouraging you to participate in these calls and will have a question and answer session at the end of each call. As a reminder, these calls are not intended for press purposes.”…

A handful of lobbyists told The Hill on Thursday morning that they received the invitations and were planning to call in.

Some lobbyists say they are extremely frustrated with the White House for criticizing them and then seeking their feedback. Others note that Democrats on Capitol Hill constantly urge them to make political donations.

One lobbyist said, “Bash lobbyists, then reach out to us. Bash lobbyists [while] I have received four Democratic invitations for fundraisers.”…

Lobbyists say the Obama White House has held many off-the-record teleconferences over the past year…Another lobbyist said these types of teleconferences occur “all the time.”

And that is why many on K Street are exasperated with Obama’s use of lobbyists as a punching bag. Some have said they understood why he used strong rhetoric on the campaign trail but are irritated the White House solicits their opinions while Obama’s friends in Congress badger them for political donations.

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38 comments

  1. avrymann

    Would someone please secretly record one of those conversations, or post the invitations with wording that it is not for public consumption, so we will have proof positive?

  2. scharfy

    Does his buffoonery know no bounds?

    Somebody put a muzzle on him, all of his centrist rhetoric is distracting me from his attempt to throw gasoline on this smoldering nation.

  3. bob

    “Some lobbyists say they are extremely frustrated with the White House for criticizing them and then seeking their feedback. Others note that Democrats on Capitol Hill constantly urge them to make political donations.”

    The are just so mean to us. One of them had the nerve to drink all of my scotch while he was screwing my wife.

  4. alex

    “[Some lobbyists] are irritated the White House solicits their opinions while Obama’s friends in Congress badger them for political donations.”

    Huh? Would they rather have “Obama’s friends in Congress badger them for political donations” but not have Obama solicit their opinions?

    More to the point, the bribes (euphemistically called donations) are exactly what give lobbyists their inordinate influence. Lobbying at some level is both unavoidable and a legitimate political activity. I expect banks to say “don’t regulate us Mr. President (Senator, Congressman, whatever)” and give the usual slew of self-serving reasons. But the fact that they listen to the lobbyists instead of the interests of those dirty old voters is what’s corrupt.

    Follow the money. Until we have Clean (publicly funded) Elections, the quaint notion of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” is a pipe dream.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_elections

    Of course you shouldn’t expect any initiative from Obama – he benefited from throwing the (admittedly broken) public financing in the trash.

  5. Stephen

    I’m so glad someone else noticed that. I laughed as well when he gave this part of the speech, but what came to mind for me were the back room deals he gave to Nebraska and the labor unions, two deals that will not only reduce the legitimacy of the bill, but hurt the American economy in the long run.

  6. Troy Ounce

    Just read “20 reasons thy the US economy is dying and simply not going to recover” by the blogger “Economic Collapse”.

    Great stuff.

    But I can ad another, most important one which is “trust in our leaders”

  7. Francois T

    Lobbyists are “extremely frustrated”?

    LOL! Are they freaking kidding us?

    If these asshats would just step back into the real world, and take the time to talk to ordinary people while reading “Free Lunch” or “It can happen here”, there is a good chance they would understand why they are becoming a source of anger, if not pure hatred.

    As for Obama, I’ve given up on him last night after the SOTU.

    My new political wish list:

    1) A tsunami of voter anger dislodge a lot of entrenched incumbents (from BOTH parties) and Blue Dogs in 2010. Just so that the political class FINALLY get the message; no more politics as usual. Yes! that assume a)the dreaded double-dip recession, and b) numerous quality would-be challengers smell there is enough blood in the water to run.

    2)Grayson for President in 2012. Hitting the deep end of the 2nd leg of the recession would be a perfect environment for a guy like him. He’s clearly attuned to the political climate, he knows how to frame an issue simply and effectively, and he obviously does not fear ( I dare say he relish) a back alley, brass knuckle bloody fight with the GOP.

  8. Lloyd Dobler

    Francois,

    A “back alley, brass knuckle fight with the GOP” indicates they are somehow blocking anything from happening. People don’t like the plan, they didn’t like the bailouts, and they aren’t seeing anything from the stimulus bill. The GOP has been absolutely powerless to do anything to stop the Democrats from passing every last item on the President’s agenda. They have failed to do so, in spite of having clear majorities and a crisis of generational proportions.

    Instead, they chose to listen to their constituents because they want to get re-elected. One could argue that is how a representative democracy is supposed to function, but even so… the people are the political force here, not the GOP. Failing to understand that will doom the Democrats to the same fate they suffered in 1994. How does a back alley, brass knuckle fight with them help Grayson?

  9. attempter

    Promising to break lobbyist influence while in reality scraping before that influence has been one of this person’s characteristic lies right from the start.

    So we can take this latest example as further proof that he’s absolutely incorrigible. He himself seems to be unaware of the magnitude of his hypocrisy, that’s how existential the corruption has become, in the system and in him personally.

    1. Valissa

      Given that Obama is a Chicago Democrat, and fully participated in the corrupt Dem machine there, why would anyone expect anything else from him?

  10. craazyman

    Yeah I didn’t even watch the damn speech.

    I’m so sick of this dude’s predictably shallow fakery that if he was down the street speaking I’d plug my ears and walk the other way — and I’m a liberal leaning independent/democract type who had some hope, initially, after he won.

    No mas.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      I agree!

      This is outrageous!

      We should all make more calls and write more letters to Santa Clause.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  11. doctoRx

    Remember the Rezko/Northern Trust/Obama land deal re young Mr. Obama’s enlarged backyard? How when questioned, then Pres-candidate Obama called it a bonehead deal? How about a corrupt deal in which an odious slumlord purchased political influence from an anointed One?

    The man never had shame, never demonstrated integrity.

    The Establishment (lately led by Big Finance, but that will change on its own timeline) controls both major parties, the major difference between which is their stance on Roe v. Wade.

    Having been lied to and cheated by, repeatedly, by political and business leaders alike throughout the last decade, voters have finally come to realize all we have is “Tastes great!”/”Less filling” major parties: two flavors of the same overpriced low-quality beer. (Thus the switch to the Tea Party: they are abstaining.)

    The public is the “mark” at the poker game who is finally realizing that it’s the mark; the PTB knew it all the time; but now they’ve got most of the money.

    One part of the solution: leave the credit game. Avoid all debt except traditional such such as loans for education that prepares one for a specific job, a plain-vanilla mortgage, and if necessary an auto loan that allows one to get to work or school. That vacation, flat screen TV, car for the teenaged child, etc: No.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Good advice.

      One should also leave the electoral process game.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    2. Siggy

      Ah Rezko, now there is a character. Believe he went to jail. But then that backyard is all part and parcel of the Chicago Way. Explore John Kass, the Greek boy who writes a delightful Chicago column in the Tribune.

      The hog-butcher to the world is no more. Boeing makes its home there and a few other notable corporations. Things change; yet for the most part they remain the same. Ethnicity was an important part of the Chicago area. Clout was the currency of political action and the orginal Mayor Daley never did let go of his job as pres of the liquour commission.

      Call it hypocrasy if you will, it’s also the Chicago Way. Curious thing about President Obama, he’s not really from Chicago, it’s just that he adapts really well. Now Rham Emanuel, he’s from Chicago and is an exemplar of the Chicago Way.

      Is it not the least bit curious that we have this ascendency of the Chicago Way all the way to the White House?

      The Chicago Way, it’s the exercise of political power for the sake of the exercise itself. Along the way we will help a few and we will hurt many, that is the chicago Way.

  12. Michael Fiorillo

    As Chris hedges has pointed out, Obama is not a leader, but a brand. His own people openly use the term, which should tell us something about them all. And as Obama himself has written, he is a blank screen onto which people project their own wishes.

    This works well during a campaign, but now that he must actually govern – or appear to – that pesky intruder known as reality keeps showing up, and 2008′s Marketer of the Year (as awarded by Advertising Age) is shown to have less substance than a box of detergent.

    The danger here, though, is that the justifiable anger that is spreading throughout the country is mostly uninformed and ripe for being hijacked by forces that have overt fascist tendencies,and who will use democracy to destroy democracy.

    What a terrible historic dilemma – indicative, perhaps of a declining empire – to have to go into the streets to defend Obama and his ilk because they represent the last (degenerate) vestiges of constitutional government.

    1. DownSouth

      That’s how the Nazis rose to power:

      The success of Nazi diplomacy and propaganda in claiming the poor in democratic civilization as their allies against the “plutocrats” in one moment, and in the next seeking to ally the privileged classes in their battle against “communism,” is a nice indication of the part which the civil war in democratic civilization played in allowing barbarism to come so near to a triumph over civilization.
      –Reinhold Niebuhr, “The children of light and the children of darkness”

        1. DownSouth

          Yea right.

          As if the extermination of six million human beings is the moral equivalent of brushing one’s teeth.

  13. Steve

    This has been going on for a while, as back when Obama first said he was going to prohibit the influence of lobbyists, this was after he got elected, a report came out that showed that health care lobbyists were in fact frequenting the White House. As with most politicians, it is a case of watch what I say, not what I do.

  14. LeeAnne

    The behavior is appalling but I wouldn’t call it hypocrisy; by using the bully pulpit to call it out as a problem he actually does some good. The lobby system is thoroughly entrenched and can only be changed with reform root and branch.

    Notice that Felix Rohatyn has gone back at age 81 to Lazard Frères. I have no doubt that, were politics not so depraved (we have Republican pornographic imagery to thank for that), Rohatyn and others of his stature would be involved and highly visible with his prestige on the line in Washington for finance reform.

  15. maynardGkeynes

    Just a thought. Given the number of technical, commerce type issues that Congress has to decide, which are basically allocative decisions among commercial interests and don’t have much importance outside the industry (do you really care which type of phone company gets some sliver of spectrum), maybe we need these lobbyists. And, maybe what we need is more lobbyists, except the that these would be lobbyists who speak for consumers, the middle class, and the general public interest. No one speaks for them now. Look at the bailouts. They had every bank lobbyist in the world fighting for their piece of pork, but there was no lobbyist proposing a solution outside the balancing of the industry’s interests. Congress has become so lazy and so reliant on the lobbyists that they were absolutely paralyzed when it came to deciding to do what was in the best interests of the country instead of how they could allocate spoils among industry constituencies. Maybe instead of complaining and voting in protest for morons like Sarah Palin, the American people should get off their duffs and hire some good lobbyists. It might make for a fair fight, for a change.

  16. DownSouth

    Hannah Arendt believed that civil disobedience could serve as an antidote to lobbyists, and also pointed out the great dangers that lobbyists (and civil disobedients) can pose to a democratic society:

    It is my contention that civil disobedients are nothing but the latest form of voluntary association, and that they are thus quite in tune with the oldest traditions of the country. What could better describe them than Tocqueville’s words “The citizens who form the minority associate in order, first, to show their numerical strength and so to diminish the moral power of the majority”? To be sure, it has been a long time since “moral and intellectual associations” could be found among voluntary associations which, on the contrary, seem to have been formed only for the protection of special interests, of pressure groups and the lobbyists who represented them in Washington. I do not doubt that the dubious reputation of the lobbyists is deserved, just as the dubious reputation of the politicians in this country has frequently been amply deserved. However, the fact is that the pressure groups are also voluntary associations, and that they are recognized in Washington, where their influence is sufficiently great for them to be called “an assistant government”; indeed, the number of registered lobbyists exceeds by far the number of congressmen. This public recognition is no small matter, for such “assistance” was no more foreseen in the Constitution and its First Amendment than freedom of association as a form of political action.

    No doubt “the danger of civil disobedience is elemental,” but it is not different from, nor is it greater than, the dangers inherent in the right to free association, and of these Tocqueville, his admiration notwithstanding, was not unaware. (John Stuart Mill, in his review of the first volume of “Democracy in America,” formulated the gist of Tocqueville’s apprehension: “The capacity of cooperation for a common purpose, heretofore a monopolized instrument of power in the hands of the higher classes, is now a most formidable one in those of the lowest.”) Tocqueville knew that “the tyrannical control that these societies exercise is often far more insupportable than the authority possessed over society by the government which they attack.” But he knew also that “the liberty of association has become a necessary guarantee against the tyranny of the majority,” that “a dangerous expedient is used to obviate a still more formidable danger,” and, finally, that “it is by the enjoyment of dangerous freedom that the Americans learn the art of rendering the dangers of freedom less formidable.” In any event, “if men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ration in which the equality of conditions is increased.”

    We need not go into the old debates about the glories and the dangers of equality, the good and the evil of democracy, to understand that all evil demons could be let loose if the original contractual model of the associations—mutual promises with the moral imperative pacta sunt servanda—should be lost. Under today’s circumstances, this could happen if these groups, like their counterparts in other countries, were to substitute ideological commitments, political or other, for actual goals.
    –Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic

    I believe that in the modern think tank–which are extremely ideological–perhaps Arendt’s worst nightmares have come true.

    The irony inherent in Tocqueville’s observations should also come as no surprise. Always the champion of the aristocracy, and always skeptical of the entire democratic project, he, like Alexander Hamiliton, saw no danger in voluntary associations as long as they remained exclusively in the hands of the higher classes.

    1. Valissa

      Thanks Downsouth for another great quote by Hannah Arendt! I appreciate your quotes from her (and from Niebuhr too) as it saves me the pain of reading their books. Much as I tend to agree with, and even admire, what they have to say they speak in my least favorite sort of stuffy intellectual academic language.

      1. craazyman

        Pain?

        You are funny!

        ha hahaha hahahah ahahahah ahhaha hahahahah.

        Look Valissa, just drink a glass or two of the Cote du Rhone, ask the Angels your question, and watch what they shine on your mind screen. You won’t go wrong.

  17. ardano

    I do not lobby currently, but have in the past; disclosure is important.

    Lobbying is an essential part of the legislative process. Interest groups are NOT singular in nature. Labor unions, well known associations like National Education, (NEA,)to name a few, have extensive lobby staffs.

    One man’s special interest is another man’s irreplaceable advocate.

    The Administration has a huge staff of…lobbyists! Same with all federal agencies. There are many lobbyists who work for Treasury, The Fed and The SEC. They may not be called lobbyists, but their role is IDENTICAL TO NON-GOVERNMENT LOBBYISTS.

    Is Obama guilty of hypocrisy on lobbying? Unquestionably. Consider what would have happened on many legislative issues if Members and Senators only received data and analysis from government lobbyists. With all the talk of disclosure, which Obama constantly trumpets, how about new rules regarding disclosure of meetings between Administration lobbyists and Members/Senators.

    1. Valissa

      Thanks for speaking up on the realities of the role of lobbying and lobbyists. It is easy to blame “the lobbyists” like it is easy to blame “the corporations” for our current economic problems but both of those positions are intellectually lazy as the world is a complex place with many competing trends.

      I agree that the important thing is disclosure. Also if the lobbyists merely discussed their issues and pressed their case but were not such big donation machines that would be less problematic. However that is not the way of the world. It would be great if there was some easier way to track which lobbyists are lobbying and donating to which politicians and then compare that to voting records. I know that OpenSecrets.org tracks the donations by amount and industry but it would be nice to know how often the lobbyists meet with individual congress members and how that effects their votes.

      BTW, who is lobbying for us Main Street citizens? Obviously we need some lobbyists representing us.

      1. i on the ball patriot

        The Citizens Lobby

        The ruling elite is in control,
        They’ve cleaned the Middle Classes’ clocks,
        The Middle Class now screams in rage,
        “They should all be in the stocks!”

        “Bring back Vanilla Crumbunism,
        It was such a grand delight!”
        “It was a very smooth pecking order,
        We got crumbs all day and night!”

        The ruling elite smiles,
        As it shuts off the crumbs,
        And says to the Middle Class,
        “You will soon all be bums!”

        The Middle Class whimpers,
        As it stumbles and falls,
        They know that they are losing,
        Because they don’t have any balls,

        And if they found the balls,
        Their pains would still not go,
        Because the whining Middle Class,
        Just doesn’t seem to know …

        When someone steals your lunch,
        You must not write letters like a chicken,
        You must summon up your courage,
        And give the ruling elite a licken!

        ————-

        No balls! No brains! No freedom!

        Election Boycotts!
        Get out on the streets now!

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. Valissa

          LOL… great poem! And I don’t even like poetry :)

          I have thought about boycotting elections, but decided against that for the most part… that’s no fun at all! My plan is to first attempt to vote strategically, then if that doesn’t make sense for a given election I will vote mischieviously, and lastly if all cadidates are truly awful then I’ll write in “None of the Above”. I was told by someone in a state office that they (alebit minorly) take note when folks who make the effort to go to the polls, but then don’t vote FOR someone in a particular election.

          1. i on the ball patriot

            Oh …. sorry for the intrusion … I didn’t know you were just trying to have fun …

            … I thought you were trying to stop the gang rape of scamerica.

            Rapists love it when the victims meekly act; “strategically”, “mischievously”, and lastly, if they say, “Please Mr. Rapist, “None of the Above””.

            Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  18. cgeye

    Well, then, everyone is a lobbyist, isn’t he? Everyone is a special interest? Horse hockey.

    How nice to disguise the harder work of organizations trying to get legislation passed that helps their communities, and the corporations (WHO ARE NOT PEOPLE, MIND YOU) that benefit from eliminating the commons, the free market, and any legislation that helps people instead of corporations. Feh.

  19. Jim

    Ben McGrath has a fascinating article in the Feb. 1 issue of the New Yorker entitled “The Movement: The rise of Tea Party activism” His guide into this social arena was Don Seely “an exceptionally congenial 67 year old electrical engineer who had said he was between jobs and using the unwanted free time to volunteer his services to the Northern Kentucky Tea Party…”

    McGrath speculates that much of the energy for the Tea Party movement comes from “…members of that generation that did not participate in the cultural revolution of the sixties, and are only belatedly coming to terms with social and demographic trends set in motion fifty years ago.”

    McGrath notes that Seely “…showed me his Air Force Commendation Medal awarded for meritorous service from 1967 to 1971. McGrath then quotes Seely as saying to him “At this age I was so ignorant. “Every once in awhile you would you’d catch a glimpse on TV of Martin Luther King–all that kind of stuff was going on. I graduated college in December of 66. About a year after I left, thet’s when the riots happened. I’m thinking what is going on?”

    Mcgrath says that Seely grew up across the street from a dairy farm that his father owned in Ohio and that Seely has a wife, who works at the Creation Museum, an institution dedicated to promoting a Biblically leteral account of the earth’s origins.

    McGrath quotes Seely as stating ” I don’t think the Tea Party quite understands how the system actually works.”

    McGrath ends his article with a folk anthem of two activists
    It goes like this:

    Take it back
    Take our country back
    Our way of life in now under attack
    Draw a line in the sand, so they all,
    understand
    And our values stay intact
    Take it back.

    Is Seely and his wife a potential political friend or enemy?

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