During the recently completed presidential campaign, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff was all excited over his "web exclusive" piece on staffers with the McCain campaign that had connections with past lobbying efforts. Back in those days Newsweek was all about the evils of those darn lobbyists. For their part, Obama supporters at the time ballyhooed the pledges that Barack Obama had made stating that his was going to be a kinder, gentler campaign, one that chased those evil lobbyists away. Phooey on those lobbyists, became the popular mantra. But, now that The One has made a successful and historic run for the Oval Office, Newsweek has suddenly discovered a newfound respect for that most venerable and important institution of lobbying.
That's right, folks. Now lobbyists are "democracy in action" and as American as apple pie, dashikis and bailouts. According to Newsweek's Robert J. Samuelson, if you are down on lobbyists, why, heck, you're down on America itself!
This is, of course, quite a different attitude than Newsweek took when using its pages to beat down John McCain. In September, connections with lobbyists were enough to bring down a presidential candidate, yet by December they are the epitome of "democracy in action." That is quite a head-spinning turn around, wouldn't you say?
Ah, but there is a major difference between September and December, isn't there? In September we had no idea that rainbows and unicorns were in store for us with an Obama win. By December, why the sun has come out tomorrow!
At last the lobbyists can come out from their dark corners. It's safe to be a lobbyist again. Safe and quite lucrative because thousands of them are flocking to Obamalot to partake of the swiftly opening spigot about to dispense all the milk and honey that a lobbyist could ever want. This bed is juuuust right Little Lobbyridinghood said.
Samuelson first wants to warn us that this whole promise that Obama had about getting rid of lobbyists was pie-in-the-sky. Forget that noise, man.
We here in Washington are anticipating a stampede of lobbyists, influence peddlers, media consultants, paid "experts" and self-styled crusaders. Who brought us this onslaught of special pleaders? Why it's Barack Obama, the man who vowed to "change" how Washington works and banish from the political arena all those "special interests" that were depicted as a form of lowlife. Well, this is one Obama promise doomed to fail.
But, don't worry, Obamabots. It's all good, bra. It's not bad if Obama brings lobbyists to Washington like a plague of locusts.
Lobbyists have a bad rap, which is why politicians routinely vilify them. Denouncing them is an uncontested rhetorical lay-up. People want to blame their discontents on a conspiracy of sleazy influence merchants. Periodic scandals confirm the stereotypes: the Jack Abramoffs who wine and dine legislators, or the congressmen like Duke Cunningham who took bribes from government contractors and steered federal funds to them. But mainly the anti-lobbying bias is popular mythology.
From here Samuelson goes into just why lobbying is really a good thing. But, let me right here say I fully agree with him. Lobbying IS all American. After all, just who are lobbyists representing? Our industries, coalitions and political ideas. Ours. The American people's. Lobbyists are not some disembodied mass of bloodsuckers that sprang from the ground fully formed and autonomous. They are the folks that represent the industries we work for, you and me. The car guys, the printing guys, the bakers, the candlestick makers... us, we the American people.
I wrote about this myself several years ago. Sure there can be lobbying efforts you disagree with, even lobbying efforts that could harm this country, but lobbying itself is not an unAmerican idea. In fact, it fits in quite nicely with the "factions" that James Madison and John Hamilton talked about in the Federalists Papers.
So, I don't disagree with the main point that Samuelson is making at all. What is interesting here is the 180 degree flip that Newsweek has made editorially. When it suited their need to jab John McCain, lobbyists filled the role of the villain but now that Obama is fairly in, lobbyists are to be celebrated as the perfect expression of Americana.
The flip-flop, and my incessant mixing of metaphors, is all just too delicious.
(Artwork credit pharmalot.com)