Only time will tell how much of a boost Republican challenger Mitt Romney will get from his debate win over President Obama.
The president seemed flatfooted and unprepared to respond to Romney’s shift toward the center, even though Romney’s campaign had suggested that’s exactly what they would do - use the Etch-a-Sketch to pivot away from the extreme right toward a more moderate stance during the general election campaign.
The debate felt like a replay of the scenario that has played out so often over the past four years: aggressive Republicans concealing their real motives and putting passive Democrats on the defensive.
Romney was acting every bit the CEO in charge, telling the customers what he thought they wanted to hear to make the sale; in this case, that his deficit reduction scheme wouldn’t favor the wealthy and damage the middle-class.
The contrast between CEO Romney talking to voters (customers) and CEO Romney talking to his big contributors (his board of directors) at a private fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. in May couldn’t have been starker. In what he thought were private remarks that have now blown up, Romney, you recall, dismissed the 47 percent of the country that supports Obama as self-pitying moochers who need to be taken care by the government.
We know that all politicians say one thing in public and another in private. That’s not a shock. But what’s striking is just how much contempt CEO Romney expressed for nearly half the voters when he was talking to the people who will hold real power in his administration: his board of directors.
Most CEOs wouldn’t let such feelings slip, even in private. But just as Romney told the Denver audience what he thought it wanted to hear at the debate, so too he was telling his contributors what he thought would please them.
Because make no mistake, plenty of the big money is preparing to work with whoever gets elected in November to launch a major offensive against Social Security and Medicare as well as to end tax breaks that favor the middle class, such as the mortgage interest tax break, under the guise of backing a new grand bargain to balance the budget.
For example, billionaire hedge fund executive Pete Peterson, who has also spent $458 million of his own money to push an austerity agenda, is now backing a bipartisan group known as Campaign to Fix the Debt. Ryan Grim at Huffington Post reports that the initiative has raised $30 million so far, including $5 million from a single unnamed donor.
The operation has hired 25 to 30 staffers, with plans to double, Grim reports. Along with a paid-media campaign, aims to influence press coverage in 40 states with locally focused teams.
This “bipartisan” initiative is just the latest attempt by Wall Street and its allies to pass the costs of the government deficits created by the financial crisis on to the middle class and those who can least afford it. Though President Obama has said he won’t let these programs be cut in a way that hurts the most vulnerable, to keep that promise he’ll have to grow backbone that was missing Monday night – and through much of his first term.
No Lobbyist Left Behind
If we forced CNN commentators to wear the names of their clients on their sleeves like NASCAR drivers we might have a deeper, more honest debate over what’s going on in Washington.
Unless you live under a rock without any form of media, it’s hard to miss the nonstop frenzy over dumb comments made by CNN commentator Hilary Rosen about Ann Romney.
Rosen said Romney never worked a day in her life, which made her unqualified to comment on the economy. Republicans then attacked Rosen as another in a long line of Democratic elitists who have no respect for women who work in the home.
When she comments on CNN, the network labels Rosen a “Democratic strategist,” though they don’t disclose any particular strategy that she’s come up with.
CNN doesn’t mention her work representing many high-profile clients in Washington, D.C. with interests across a wide range of issues. Her firm, SKDKnickerbocker is filled with former government employees cashing in on their contacts on behalf of their corporate clients. The firm, which includes President Obama’s former communications director Anita Dunn as managing director, isn’t required to disclose clients because it doesn’t acknowledge that what it does is lobbying. In Washington-speak the firm is “political consulting and public relations firm.”
Last year, Bloomberg Business week reported that the firm coordinated an army of lobbyists unleashed by a coalition led by Google, Apple and Cisco pushing for a tax holiday.
The Republic Report compiled a partial list of clients, including big railroads, agricultural interests, PepsiCo and General Mills and for-profit education companies.
In addition, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Dunn pitched SKDKnickerbocker’s services as part of a team that offered to restore hedge funds’ sullied reputations, though apparently nobody swung.
Rosen’s poke at Ann Romney may have stirred up media frenzy, offering just the excuse for a jive revival of jive working mom v. stay-at-home brawl that sheds no light and offers no insight to anybody.
It’s also not the kind of controversy that’s likely to upset Rosen’s clients, who will recognize it for the sideshow it is compared to their free-flowing access to the White House. It’s more likely that it will provide Rosen with an opportunity for some good-natured self-deprecating humor to grease her way as she makes the rounds through the corridors of power.
The Obama administration has made a big deal about how it holds itself to a higher standard by not taking money from lobbyists. But that doesn’t mean lobbyists don’t have a strong presence in the White House, as the New York Times reported Saturday. “Many of the president’s biggest donors, while not lobbyists, took lobbyists with them to the White House, while others performed essentially the same function on their visits,” the Times reported.
Several years ago, GOOD magazine came up with the idea of making politicians wear suits with the names of their biggest contributors, like NASCAR drivers advertise their sponsors. Politicians have been reluctant to embrace the idea. They’re perfectly happy to keep us focused on the sideshow provided by Rosen and those like her, who babble phony nonsense on TV but profit from their access to the real game off-screen.