Sunday, June 08, 2008

McCain's Phony Reformer Cred Fracturing

About John McCain affixing his name to the Obama/Coburn good government bill, Mike at Born at the Crest of the Empire, writes, "Two candidates competing for the 'good government' mantle might have some positive effects." Between this bill and his transformation of the DNC, Barack Obama is reforming the government before he gets elected (The Young Turks look at Obama's takeover of the DNC here), just imagine what he'll do when he's president. While McCain jumping on board is very welcome in this instance, he has a very deep-seated lobbyist problem. If he is competing for the mantle of good-government, it is a fraudulent stance that he can not sustain much longer because he's utterly surrounded by lobbyists.

His alledged chief economist, former GOP senator-turned-lobbyist, Phil Gramm has the same kind of business record George W. Bush had before he became Texas governor--complete failure. Firedoglake blogger Christy Hardin Smith asks, "Is this what we could expect McCain to foist on the rest of the country -- a man who helped run energy and banking policy in the ground while he and his family pocketed millions?" Over at Rising Hegemon, Attaturk has the story of Gramm being on the other side of another Obama bill working its way through congress that will eliminate off shore tax shelters.

Meanwhile, lobbyists are actually trying to push back against the demonizing of their brand. It hurts their feelings. "What I have trouble with is the hypocritical nature of these comments" said a lobbyist. "Both candidates have worked with lobbyists, recognize the value of their input, received legal campaign contributions from lobbyists, and yet never hesitate to throw us to the wolves when it behooves them to do so." I applaud this lobbyist for over-the-top rhetoric portraying lobbyists as being thrown to wolves, as opposed to, say, under a bus, but fresh cliché aside, this argument is ridiculous.

No one is trying to take away lobbyists place at "the table". What Obama is doing (and what McCain pretends he's doing) is trying to make sure that "the table" is not bought-and-paid-for by vastly wealthy corporate interests intent on legally bribing their way around laws and rules that were made (or will be made) to protect us. This "table" is where the poeple's interests have to be addressed, yet when it's entirely legal to use the campaign finance system to buy off both sides of a phoney debate, it is the people who pay for it when they literally die, or get sick, or go hungry, or lose their house, or get cheated out of jobs, or lose rights, or work for poverty wages, or go to jail for no good reason, or, or, or...

Even undue influence on a dead issue can be incredibly damaging. Take, for example, McCain's most recent (there might be a new one, I haven't checked today) flip-flop on telecom immunity. Nick Juliano of Raw Story writes, "While McCain's position on wiretaps and telcos is zigging this way and that, a new report also details the extent to which lobbyists who earned a living representing the very phone companies accused of breaking the law are now working for his campaign." Not that Republicans in Congress give a shit about wasting time in that august body, but don't you think that this "debate" over telecom immunity has gone on long enough? How long has this crap been going on? Chris Dodd was still in the race when this thing got smashed. They keep bringing it back because when you funnel millions to politicians on both sides (I'm looking at you Jay Rockefeller) stupid debates like this will last forever, crowding out important legislation. Of course, having a 492-page bill read into the record to kill even the most suspect global warming legislation could be considered a bigger problem. Perhaps the next time a lobbyist is out looking for sympathy they should open with that instead of stressing "the value of their input".

McCain's lobbying connections also undermine his alleged national defense credibility. McCain has flopped around quite a bit on the subject of divestment from Iran. Actually divesting will be difficult for a candidate, who, as Sam Stein reports, "employs [chief campaign strategist Charlie Black and] several other campaign aides and fundraisers who have served in lobbying capacities in which they advocated on behalf of foreign clients with investments and interests in Iran."

And please, don't buy the meme that McCain is cleaning up now that he's up against a real reformer in Obama. Less than a week and a half ago McCain's campaign manager met with about 70 top Republican lobbyists.

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