If you’re going to promise "new politics," it would probably be wise to eschew the same old Beltway cronies and insiders who have served presidential nominees of yore.
And if you’re going to attack political opponents for playing "textbook Washington games," it would probably be best not to play them yourself. If you do, you’ll end up tongue-tied in front of the cameras, hung by your own holier-than-thou rhetoric and faced once again with the decision to throw another bad choice under the bus.
Yes, Barack Obama, we’re talking about you. Again. It’s getting mighty crowded under that bus, isn’t it?
Last week, D’Oh-bama announced the appointment of D.C. denizens Jim Johnson and Eric Holder to head his veep search committee — along with a Kennedy (Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg) thrown in for glamorous good measure. John McCain supporters rightly jumped on Johnson and Holder as shady Washington operators. Holder was the Clinton Justice Department official in the middle of the sleazy pardon for fugitive financier Marc Rich.
Johnson, who has advised past failed Democratic nominees Walter Mondale and John Kerry, was CEO of the beleaguered, government-backed mortgage giant, Fannie Mae. Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported that Johnson accepted more than $7 million in below-market-rate loans from scandal-plagued subprime lender Countrywide Financial Corp. The company’s CEO, Angelo Mozilo, had set up a very special loan program for his high-powered pals. Johnson had named Mozilo to Fannie Mae’s national advisory committee more than a decade ago and they maintained a cozy friendship.
Mozilo also happens to be one of Obama’s fattest targets in his frequent broadsides against the demons of the mortgage industry. Obama likened Mozilo to a virus in March: "These are the people who are responsible for infecting the economy and helping to create a home foreclosure crisis." Channeling Jesse Jackson, Obama further chided: "These executives crossed the line to boost their bottom line." During the battle with Hillary, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was dispatched to the cable TV airwaves to inveigh: "If we’re really going to crack down on the practices that caused the credit and housing crises, we’re going to need a leader who doesn’t owe these industries any favors." And so on.
Yesterday, after a barrage of questions from McCain bloggers, Countrywide critics and Clinton operatives, ABC News asked Obama about the stunningly obvious hypocrisy. The result was, well, painful.
Struck with an apparent case of restless mouth syndrome, Obama first indignantly rejected the notion that he should pick his veep pickers more carefully: "Well, look, the, the, I mean — first of all I am not vetting my VP search committee for their mortgages."
Translation: I will remain willfully blind to the conflicts of interest created by my own mortgage industry-bashing rhetoric.
Next, Obama leaned on his "Washington games" crutch and attempted to distance himself from the appointees whom he has assigned the most important and intimate of tasks: "You’re going to have to direct — it becomes sort of a — this is a game that can be played — everybody, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships. I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters."
"Tangential"? He appointed them to search for his second in command. "Tangential" is the cleaning lady in his Sioux Falls campaign office.
Finally, channeling Bill Clinton’s "is-is" parsing, Obama attempted to argue that his dubious veep selection committee members don’t really "work" for him: "They’re performing that job well. It’s a volunteer, unpaid position. And they’re giving me information, and I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I want to select as a vice presidential candidate. So these aren’t folks who are working for me, they’re not people I have assigned to a particular job in a future administration."
There are only so many gaffes, missteps, mistakes, flubs and self-delusional statements one can make before serial naivete becomes endemic stupidity. Obama has reached the point of no return.