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Michael Winship: Get Away from those Spinning Doors

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

Get Away from those Spinning Doors
By Michael Winship

Not even three weeks in office and President Barack Obama is discovering that being in charge is no bed of roses, even when you have a garden of them just outside your Oval Office windows. February’s frost has bitten a bit of the bloom off the new President’s aspirations as the swamp of hypocrisy and partisan inertia that is Beltway Washington took its toll.

Weighed down by tax return problems and charges of DC influence peddling, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle pulled out as President Obama’s candidate for Secretary of Health and Human Services – just as the President was trying to accelerate momentum for Senate passage of his economic stimulus plan, and the Republicans were equally trying to slam on the brakes.

Daschle’s withdrawal, coupled with the same day, tax-inflicted stepping down of Nancy Killefer, who was to be the White House’s chief performance officer, forced President Obama to use a lightning round of network interviews he’d intended as stimulus promotion to defend himself against charges that his oratorical hopes of cleaning up government and solving all its problems had hit a speed bump.

The resulting “I screwed up” mea culpas were refreshing in a town where shifting blame to the other guy is the standard modus operandi. But whether contrition for the cameras, combined with President Obama’s continued high popularity, can translate into forward-moving action remains unknown. By week’s end, President Obama had dropped his conciliatory tone of bipartisanship and gone on the attack to try to rescue the stimulus package.

But one thing the Daschle affair and the problems with other Obama appointments makes clear is that while new administrations come and go, what hasn’t changed – yet – is the phenomenon of the revolving door, the back-and-forth fandango of lobbyists moving into government jobs at the same time that officials out of power parlay their resumes into suites on K Street. Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives – all are guilty.

A recent report from the non-partisan organization CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, found that of 24 men and women who served as cabinet members during the Bush Administration, seventeen of them left office and raced to private sector jobs with some 119 companies. Sixty-five of those businesses spend money lobbying the United States government – and 40 are directly hitting up government agencies the former cabinet secretary was in charge of.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft started his own lobbying firm. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham joined the board of Occidental Petroleum. Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security, is well-known for his involvement with companies profiting from the fear of terrorist attack or natural disaster, including Lucent Technologies and Home Depot, where duct tape is king.

But the poster boy seems to be former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who CREW says has worked for 42 different companies since he left the Bush cabinet in 2005. They include Centene Corporation, which runs Medicaid plans in seven states; the pharmaceutical company Novartis; and even an operation called Whey Cool Health Foods. Logistics Health, a medical readiness company of which Thompson is president, saw its federal contracts go from $19.9 million in 2003 to $104.8 million in 2007. The company claims Thompson never contacted folks at Health and Human Services on its behalf, but Logistics’ founder and chairman told a Wisconsin newspaper, “Tommy really is able to get us in to see the right people.”

Maybe you thought the in-and-out revolving door would shudder to a halt with a new President who vowed to clean up Dodge and campaigned on the promise that no lobbyist would find job security in the White House. The day after his swearing-in, President Obama signed an executive order barring former lobbyists in government positions from overseeing anything related to their past business interests.

Apparently, that presidential executive order comes with an asterisk: no lobbyists in charge – except when they are. Take Deputy Secretary of Defense designate William J. Lynn III, former executive and lobbyist with Raytheon, world’s largest manufacturer of guided missiles, including the Patriot missile. Raytheon received more than ten billion dollars in defense contracts last year. Lynn says he lobbied for “only a handful” – missiles, destroyers, warheads, a radar system, a spy satellite. Some handful. But because both the President and Defense Secretary Robert Gates insist he’s the only man for the job, Lynn’s been given a waiver.

Also please give a big welcome to anti-tobacco lobbyist William Corr, the newly designated number two at Health and Human Services. He insists he’ll stay out of any HHS business that has to do with tobacco, won’t even yell at anyone smoking in the elevator. We’ll see.

According to THE WASHINGTON TIMES, nearly two dozen of President Obama’s executive level appointments have worked as registered lobbyists. “Even the toughest rules require reasonable exceptions.” That was the explanation of White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. True, there’s an argument to be made for bringing in people with expertise and experience in maneuvering the mazelike intricacies of big government. But with so much money at stake, so much power too easily corrupted, the perpetual revolving door remains a big problem.

Ah, sigh the jaded cynics and opportunists who spawn along the shores of the Potomac, the more things stay the same, so what can you do? What you can do is speak up, and, as the late Molly Ivins would say, keep raising hell. Otherwise, that breeze you’ll feel blowing out of Washington will never be the winds of change; just a fetid gust generated by Beltway blusters of hot air and the endless spin of those damned revolving doors.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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Comments

I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

Following my own investigation, billions of persons in the world get the business loans from good creditors. So, there's a good possibility to receive a short term loan in every country.

The site was awesome. I have been looking for just this kind of blog.I am appreciative for this information.

Hillary lost to Ted Kennedy & his honorium Healthcare Plan--to be his eternal legacy. Ted & Kerry, McGovern, Biden, Edwards came out for "anybody but Hillary".

This is supported by Obama's support of any Kennedy wish.

Congress voted down Paulson's demand for $700 billion but approved $800 billion.

Obama wanted $300 to $700 billion but Congress bumped it to $900+ billion so they can tell Mainstreet they reduced it to $800 billion & saved US money! THEY THINK WE CANNOT SEE THEY ADDED $100 billion? WE are not blind but they may be.

When liers figure, figures lie! First they kick sand in our face & now they are rubbing salt in our wounds!

The internet is full of comments reflecting people are mad as hell & are not going to put up with it any more.

If good stimulious were put into well run banks what result would you expect? What can we expect by stimulating terribly run banks?

The executives may not pay, but the politicians will!

In 2010 there will be a "POW-to the moon!" reaction!

Billy Bob, Florida where the DNP & Obama denied my vote (not a Clinton supporter)

I believe what we have here is a class consciousness problem. Obama, like Bush, continues to appoint incompetents of his own class for purposes of loyalty. Why do they remain loyal? They are at an income level and within a protective coterie that derives great networking advantage from denying obvious solutions to the public at large. It is not the education one receives at Harvard, Yale or Brown so much as the contacts one makes. When an elite controls media, finance,trade policy, war industries and residual manufacturing they can shuffle the twin parties like baseball pitchers to handle public frustration and doubt. Even better that the public, with its toy vote, is batting a cannonball with a wiffle bat. Even on Moyers, when they want your opinion, they'll give it to you. No one reads your blog without corporate money behind you, and even Amy Goodman moves in the wind of power. Her mouth has been self-taped many times. It is a matter of class consciousness and no one can hear dissenters until they learn to scream in usion. Bill Moyers is of that same privileged class and does not seem able to hear anyone outside or not sponsored by another member of the club. Are you still up for membership Michael Winship?

For immediate release

Obama Appoints Anthony to Bureau of Maternal and Child Health

February 6, 2009 Washington DC


President Barack Obama appointed Casey Anthony today to the position of Director of the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health in a well-attended ceremony in the White House.

"This is another of Obama's brilliant appointments," commented Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Clearly Ms. Anthony knows that it takes a village to raise a child. We look forward to working with her on international programs for population control."

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi seconded Secretary Clinton's enthusiam: "It is not only important that we have appointed the first female head of the Bureau, but we have appointed someone who understands the crucial importance of fully funding retroactive reproductive choice services. Our health care professionals face serious unemployment and fully funding these services will put Americans back to work, as well as help us with cost containment in education and other social service budgets."

In an article on "Obama's New Feminism," in this Sunday's "New York Times" magazine, long-time observor of the Washington social scene Sally Quinn praised the Casey Anthony appointment for its practicality. "For too long Republicans from Bush to McCain have pursued a wild west, laissez-faire approach to their female cabinet and other appointments, selecting women like Karen Hughs and Sarah Palin without regard to whether they had family responsibilities. President Obama returns us to the Democratic wisdom of Clinton appointees like Janet Reno and Donna Shalala who are unencumbered by family obligations, and can truly be examples for young women. From Governor Napolitano to the more maverick case of Casey Anthony, by hook or by crook, these women will do what needs to be done to make sure that they can devote their entire energies to the public weal."

Asked at the subsequent press conference whether Ms. Anthony's legal difficulties might prove an embarassment to the Obama administration, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "Republicans are, um, trying to make, um, something of Ms. Anthony's, um, innocent mistake of confusing chloroform, um, with the mosquito repellent "Off!" This is, um, a shameless, um, distraction from our, um, important stimulus bill. And it, um, won't work. We won!" Mr. Gibbs added that an Obama council of advisors including Robert Reich, Paul Krugman, and Doc, Sneezy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, and Dopey disputed recent figures cited by House Republicans on infant mortality from the Congressional Budget Office.

Mr. Gibbs then ended the press conference abruptly, referring further questions to Assistant Press Secretary Moe Locke.

-- 30 --

Copyright 2009 by Bruce P.Majors

Suggestions:

l. Set up a national petition (via e-mail or
hard copies) that say: Stop the political
nonsense in DC and get to work saving the country NOW. There are 3,141 counties in the 50 states. Get each county
to send their petition to their House and Senate representatives.

2. Assemble groups of local citizens and take a picture of these angry citizens. These pictures of angry citizens should appear in local & national print media and TV early next
week.

Show our Beltway employee, We have had enough of this. Get down to the
nation's work!

" that breeze you’ll feel blowing out of Washington will never be the WINDS of CHANGE; just a fetid gust generated by Beltway blusters of hot air and the endless spin of those damned revolving doors".
Very well said!

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