Obama makes hypocritical appointment
It’s been less than a month since his election, and already Barack Obama has violated the very principals he espoused on the campaign trail, specifically that he would bring change and transparency to government. Yet in his first major decision as presidentelect, Obama tapped an unethical political hack to be his chief of staff. Rahm Emanuel is the Democrats’ version of Karl Rove, only worse. Yes, Rove had a hand in outing CIA operative Valerie Plame (for which he should have gone to jail), and he is famous for political smear campaigns. But to my knowledge, Rove never profited financially from his misdeeds or associations, nor did he ever help to throw an entire nation into an economic crisis. Emanuel has done both. Rahm Emanuel came to prominence as a member of Bill Clinton’s administration. A trusted advisor, he assisted Hillary with her failed healthcare proposal. Emanuel was also given to fits of temper when situations or people displeased him. At a dinner held on the night after Clinton’s 1996 re-election, Emanuel grabbed a steak knife and began shouting out the names of Clinton’s enemies, while punctuating his rants by stabbing the knife into the table with cries of “Death, death, death.” His nickname around DC was “Rahmbo.” Leveraging his political capital, Emanuel, an accomplished fundraiser, left the Clinton White House to accept a cushy job at Dresdner Kleinwort, where he earned more than $16 million in just two years. Then, in 2000, Emanuel was named to the board of directors of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, better known as Freddie Mac. During his tenure, Freddie was besieged by scandals over campaign contributions and accounting irregularities. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight accused the Freddie board of having “failed in its duty to follow up on matters brought to its attention.” The OFHEO ruling was a mere slap on the wrist to Freddie folks, who were so arrogant that in 2006 they hired lobbyists to pressure congressmen into voting against GOP sponsored legislation that would have reined in the Freddie board and its activities. Had the bill passed, it could have prevented the financial collapse of 2008. Emanuel escaped unscathed from the Freddie scandals, and was Chicago Mayor Richard Daly’s pick to run for Congress in 2002. Emanuel was elected with ease, but not without another scandal. According to Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, some of Daly’s underlings ended up going to prison for helping to organize patronage armies for Emanuel’s campaign. While in Congress, Emanuel profited from relationships that most would say constitute a conflict of interest. According to OpenSecrets.org, Emanuel was the “top House recipient of contributions from hedge funds, private equity firms, and the large securities and investment industry.” And so, come January, Rahm Emanuel will become the second-most powerful man in America, having been appointed by the man who once criticized George Bush for letting his cronies run amuck and take our country down the wrong path. What makes this sordid betrayal by Obama even worse is last week’s release of a sevenpage questionnaire by the transition team for anyone seeking employment in the new Obama administration. The 63 questions that each applicant must answer represent what some former White House staffers are calling the most comprehensive vetting of federal employees in our history. The questionnaire is overly thorough in requiring detailed information about the applicant’s spouse and family, including records of any and all e-mails which might prove embarrassing to Obama. But it is question No. 18 that gets my goat. Paraphrased, it asks: “Have you, your spouse, or any member of your immediate family been affiliated with Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, or any other institution receiving a government bail-out?” Apparently Rahm Emanuel was
Fridays at 6:30am on Sundays at 10pm on exempted from responding to that question. And why not? Both Obama and the head of his transition team are, like Emanuel, foot soldiers in Daly’s army and could care less that Rahm made millions of dollars, then helped to set in motion the worst financial crisis this country has faced since 1929. No doubt a chief of staff must be hard-nosed, but he shouldn’t be a candidate for hard time. Emanuel, like so many modern-day political hacks and greedy Wall Street types, has straddled the lines of decency without actually being guilty of a crime. The avarice and arrogance of these despicable people has contributed to massive hardship for millions of Americans who trusted their public and private sector leaders to act in our best interest, not theirs. Obama campaigned on transparency in government, and in a way, he’s kept that promise, because we can see right through his first manuever.
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).