Sunday, February 08, 2009

American corruption and Obama's challenge

I usually discount predictions of American outrage. As near as I can tell, America has been seriously stoned for at least 8 years.

On the other hand, I feared Obama was another lost cause and that he would need to adopt the GOP's deceits to contend.

So maybe Rich has something here. He gets credit for smacking the media meme that Daschle's problem was taxes (emphases mine) ...
Frank Rich - Slumdogs Unite! -

... In reality, Daschle’s tax shortfall, an apparently honest mistake, was only a red flag for the larger syndrome that much of Washington still doesn’t get. It was the source, not the amount, of his unreported income that did him in. The car and driver advertised his post-Senate immersion in the greedy bipartisan culture of entitlement and crony capitalism that both helped create our economic meltdown (on Wall Street) and failed to police it (in Washington). Daschle might well have been the best choice to lead health-care reform. But his honorable public record was instantly vaporized by tales of his cozy, lucrative relationships with the very companies he’d have to adjudicate as health czar.

Few articulate this ethical morass better than Obama, who has repeatedly vowed to “close the revolving door” between business and government and end our “two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks.” But his tough new restrictions on lobbyists (already compromised by inexplicable exceptions) and porous plan for salary caps on bailed-out bankers are only a down payment on this promise, even if they are strictly enforced.

The new president who vowed to change Washington’s culture will have to fight much harder to keep from being co-opted by it instead. There are simply too many major players in the Obama team who are either alumni of the financial bubble’s insiders’ club or of the somnambulant governmental establishment that presided over the catastrophe...
Rich's reminds us that Geithner and Rubin are deeply embedded in the history of Citigroup and Goldman Sachs; and that the banking connections run deep in Obama's organization. On the other hand, American history has many examples of insiders turning against tribe - with the the advantage of knowing where the skeletons are.

I hope Reich is write about a populist anger at America's high tide corruption though. We can't eliminate corruption in human government, but we can push it back to the lower range of history. To do that we'll need Senators like Al Franken rather than Norm Coleman, and we'll need an angry public to stay loud.

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