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Shifting Perspectives

We watched with great interest the Crown[ed] Prince’s speech in South Dakota today. Perhaps it is time to concede and refer to him as Obama.

We will address only two items we are familiar with in his technically masterful presentation: (a) Imperial City lobbyists; and (b) McCain. Both go the heart of his viability as a candidate and then as successful president.

Obama offers the hoary bromide that D.C. is broken. A safe if unremarkable observation. So is the exclamation that lobbyists for this interest group or that group will not write legislation when he is president. Sadly for him, he will not be the legislative branch unless he mounts a coup d’etat beyond even Addington’s most feverish imaginations. He can offer drafts and urge consideration. He can veto legislation. He will never write it.

The reason lobbyists work is not because they control and infest the Executive Branch — although their blatant penetration and appointment under this regime is astonishing even to a hardened cynic. How many Under Secretaries of this or that came from a trade organization? Or an industry directly affected? That phenomenon and its impact on our economy, integrity of governance and society remains a far more important book to come than current gossip from a former underling.

A major reason lobbyists are effective is that they provide the legislative branch three vital things: (x) money; (y) technical expertise; and (z) intelligence. Until Obama can find a way to eliminate the costs of permanent campaigns, lobbyists will have access to the legislative process. Will it be as blatant (and punitive) going forward as we saw under the ‘Hammer’? Unlikely. But it will still be there.

Secondly, what Obama’s speeches fail to recognize is that American society is far more complex than it was even 20 years ago. Hill staff, even committee professional staff, can only cover so much and focus on so many items of interest. Much of the staff are well meaning, earnest and ambitious 20-30 somethings. Industry and interest groups often provide much needed (even if self serving) expertise to the staff. The range is from helping shape hearing witnesses to provide good opportunities for bosses to get on TV to drafting actual legislation. This the Stiftung knows first hand, having done both. The latter even at 2:30 AM in an empty, cold Rayburn House Office Building committee hearing room. (The legislation went through conference to Warlord signature).

Finally, lobbyists are often vital to staff and members to let them know what their colleagues are saying and doing. Imagine high school (the old saying, etc.) and then multiply by ten. Obama, by a declaration or even executive order, can not change any of this. Even the Democratic majority won’t matter much if their self interest is concerned. Remember how helpful Democrats and George Mitchell were to Clinton’s first term (and vice versa).

Exhortation alone will leave this unchanged. Can Obama curtail reach into the Executive Branch? It would be hard not to, given how much has been given away. Even so, in the end, ‘Team Obama’ will have to deal with “the lobbyists” directly or via proxy. Unless Obama can find a way to break the triangle on the Hill noted above. One concern we have is that “change” is what propelled Carter into the White House. Lofty unfulfilled expectations can lead to backlash and even reactionary consequences. Obama and the country would be better served if he toned down or emphasized more emphatically than he does the difficulties that lie ahead. The old ‘if people are with you on take off’ thing.

We think he and his advisors either drastically misunderstand the turgidity and lethality of the Imperial City’s ‘permanent government’ or (more disturbing) understand it and market an alternative. As it stands now, we still believe he is about to stick his hand into a disposal with someone else controlling the on off switch.

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As for McCain what can we say that has not already been said here? This is not the man we knew and admired. Ambition is not a pretty sight.

We ran into recently one of the above mentioned Deputy Assistant Sidewise Secretaries For X Affairs under this regime. And yes, this person came directly out of a major trade organization into the position. And yes, this person loathed McCain. With a vehement, fiery intensity normally reserved for Al Gore, Global Warming and resistance to immediate drilling in Anwar. The same sentiment remains throughout our VRWC network. All of them actually look forward to a McCain defeat. They hope to see his career end with national failure. A nose despite the face thing. There also remains some strategic calculation. As mentioned here earlier, an Obama or even better HRC election would generate untold millions in fundraising opportunities for their fungus-like network of 501(c)(3) organizations. And when on the ‘outs’, guess where they will be parked?

For all of the above we are still heartened. While not thrilled by his lack of experience and the hollow cant of ‘change’, the Stiftung obviously embraces any departure from the Warlord’s ruinous tenure. The McCain of old would have offered this plus competence. McCain Mk. Deux is too shameless a panderer. The election remains the ChangeLord’s to lose. A more pressing question is, ‘Can he govern?’