Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen!

Remember back in 2008 when the Obama campaign accused Bill Clinton of making racist comments? Remember when all the prog bloggers wrote that Obama didn’t want Bill Clinton hanging around the White House giving unwanted advice? My, how things have changed!

According to Joe Conason, Obama’s “campaign chiefs” secretly sneaked into Harlem last Wednesday to ask for the former President’s advice on how to get Obama re-elected.

President Obama’s top political operatives — including campaign chief adviser David Axelrod — traveled from Chicago and Washington to the headquarters of the William Jefferson Clinton foundation in Harlem last Wednesday afternoon for a meeting with the former president and two of his top aides. The topic? How to re-elect the current president — including some very specific advice from Clinton, according to sources present.

The Nov. 9 meeting, which went on for more than two hours, also included Clinton counselor Douglas Band and Justin Cooper, a senior adviser whose multiple responsibilities have included work on the former president’s memoir and last two books. Their guests were former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who is serving as Obama’s 2012 campaign manager; Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the Democratic National Committee who until recently oversaw political affairs in the White House; and Obama’s lead pollster Joel Benenson, who played the same role in the 2008 campaign.

According to Conason, the meeting was requested by Obama advisers. Much of the discussion centered on how to win in southern and southwestern battleground states “such as North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, and Arizona” that Obama won last time, but is now struggling.

Economic conditions and how to address them dominated the discussion. What most interested the Obama team were Clinton’s insights on heartland voting blocs that remain in the political middle: not the Republican-leaning independents who always end up voting for the GOP nominee, but the truly uncommitted who largely ended up supporting Obama in 2008.

Apparently Bill was told in no uncertain terms that his help is very much needed and wanted during the upcoming campaign.

Meanwhile, at the Financial Times, Edward Luce is echoing James Carville’s recent advice to Obama: Mr President, it’s time to panic. In discussing the failure and recent demotion of Obama’s latest chief of staff Bill Daley, Luce argues that Obama hasn’t learned the lesson that his campaign staff are not the best advisers on governing and policy.

On his way out, Rahm Emanuel warned Mr Daley that he would be just one among four de facto chiefs of staff, each with independent access to Mr Obama. That has proved accurate. Effective presidents rely on powerful managers, who are not obliged to compete with election consultants for the president’s ear. At a time when there is “low visibility” in the US economy, and when volatility holds the whip hand over American politics, there is greater need than ever for a leader who can focus on the bigger horizon.

It has been almost three years, and frustrated allies say that Mr Obama shows few signs of finding a learning curve. He still fails to consult widely and dislikes “reaching out” when he has to. Many Democrats have given up trying. “He doesn’t want to listen,” said one senator. “I don’t think the leopard is going to change his spots.” The plain fact is that Mr Obama prefers to campaign than govern. With the entrenched inner circle that he has, no one should be surprised by this. Whether or not Mr Obama can eke out a victory next year, it would be optimistic to expect things to change radically in a second term.

Will Obama be able to learn from Bill Clinton’s advice? My guess is the focus will be on taking advantage of Clinton’s skills as a campaigner rather than listening to the wisdom he gained during eight years in the White House and as a world leader.\


Running for President as a Moneymaking Scheme

candidate or conman?

We live in an increasingly shallow and commercial culture, so I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked to learn that some people run for President of the United States specifically in order to enrich themselves rather than because they want to serve our country. To be honest, I’ve often speculated that Obama wanted to be President so he could move up to the investor class, and that he might even prefer to serve only one term and then get on to the business of becoming filthy rich.

Sarah Palin became a celebrity by running for Vice President, after which she resigned her job as governor of Alaska, wrote a couple of books and became a Fox personality. She continued to allow her deluded supporters to believe she intended to run for President in 2012, and then pulled the rug out from under them. Did she do all this just to get rich?

Newt Gingrich’s entire campaign staff resigned in June, reportedly because they felt he was more committed to promoting the books and movies he produces with his wife Calista than to doing the hard work needed to win presidential primaries.

It appears Herman Cain is another example of the largely self-interested, phony presidential candidate, according to an article by Joshua Green at Bloomberg Businessweek.

Green writes that Cain’s occupation over the past fifteen years has been traveling around the country as a “motivational speaker.” He is also promoting his new book, This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House while he is supposedly running for President–and presumably accepting contributions from supporters. Green writes that Cain recently told an audience in Phoenix, AZ that “My American dream,” he boomed, “was, when I grow up, I want to make me some money!” More from the article:

Cain is making money, alright. Bloomberg News reported on Oct. 17 that his campaign paid more than $65,000 to his personal publishing company to buy copies of his books and pamphlets. In an interview before his address to the Arizona GOP, he told me that he continues to give motivational speeches to corporations at $25,000 a pop even as he campaigns for President. “I’m still doing paid speeches,” he confirmed. “But I have not raised my prices. This economy’s on life support, so I’m very mindful of those companies that would like to have me come and speak. But I’m not gonna take advantage of my newfound popularity just to put more dollars in my pocket.” Even so, Cain estimates that he has earned $250,000 this year through his speeches.

Running for President has been good to him, even if no one is certain that the White House is his most coveted destination. Opponents, reporters, and many of his own aides are skeptical. In June, four of his top staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire quit because, as one of them put it, Cain “wasn’t willing to make the commitment to Iowa necessary to win.” Over the past few months, as his popularity has swelled, he has turned his back on the early primary states he once courted diligently and set off on a national book tour to promote This is Herman Cain! He has a bare-bones staff, a thin calendar, and hasn’t registered his name on the ballot in numerous primary states, although he has registered appearances on the Today show and dozens of others to pitch his book.

Cain claims he’s a serious candidate, even though he isn’t making the slightest effort to compete in the early primaries.

Cain insists he’s serious about becoming President and dismisses any suggestion otherwise. “People who criticize me for our strategy, they don’t know what our strategy is,” he says. Cain claims that he has passed over early primary states to sell books and speak to audiences in places like Tennessee and Ohio because he is running primary and general election strategies at the same time. “I have an unconventional campaign,” he says.

Nevertheless, by pretending to be a candidate, he has certainly raised his own visibility and celebrity, just as Palin did. I always had the impression that Cain was nothing but a cheap huckster; but after reading Green’s article my opinion of him has gotten even lower, if that’s possible. And yet this man is currently the Republican frontrunner. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t fit in this new America at all. What has happened to patriotism and idealism?

I’ve started seeing a few stories suggesting that Cain’s support may have peaked. Jonathan Bernstein at the Plum Line asks if Cain’s fifteen minutes are over.

Last night, Herman Cain made a big splash when he backed into pro-choice language on abortion last night on CNN — apparently by accident — when he said he is personally fully against abortion but doesn’t think that the government should tell women what to do. This is already shaping up as a very big deal. Cain is leading in some polls, so other Republicans may use this slip up to try to take him down, and he’ll have to address it.

In other words, this could mean the end of Cain’s 15 minutes.

Republicans certainly would never nominate anyone who was actually pro-choice, and anti-abortion activists won’t forgive anyone who stumbled this badly on the issue, even if he walks it back back (as I expect he will) and clarifies that he misspoke himself and he’s actually 100% pro-life. So this is at the very least a severe blow to his campaign. Given that he’s not a serious candidate, it gives Republicans a clean shot at bashing him for long enough to finally remove him from the top of the polls. As such, it can be seen as a lucky break for Republicans who know that it’s really not a good idea to have a presidential candidate who can’t manage to put three sentences together on most topics without an embarrassing gaffe.

At the right-wing Boston Herald, Wayne Woodleif writes that is “already deflating” because of another embarrassing gaffe:

The air is gushing out of Herman Cain’s balloon in the Republican presidential race after his rivals battered his beloved 9-9-9 tax plan Tuesday night in Las Vegas and the former pizza mogul, co-leader in recent polls, made a huge gaffe on terrorism in post- and pre- debate interviews.

In the debate, Cain had brushed off CNN moderator Anderson Cooper’s question of why the candidate had told Wolf Blitzer in an earlier interview that he would consider negotiating the release of all the terrorist detainees at Guantanamo for the return of a single American held hostage (a la Israel’s deal with Palestine). “I would never negotiate with terrorists,” Cain answered.

But when Cooper, post-debate, played video from the earlier interview, Cain was caught clearly saying, “I could see myself as president authorizing that kind of transaction.” Once he had all the facts, Cain sang a different song. “I misspoke,” he said. “Things were going so fast” in the interview.

So Cain may soon join Palin as a Fox News Host or perhaps become a more high-profile talk radio host than he was before he “ran for President.” But whatever he chooses to do, he’ll be a lot richer and more famous because pall the free media exposure he received while pretending to be a serious candidate.

Am I the only one who finds that deeply disturbing?


The Solyndra Story Just Keeps Getting Worse

Obama visiting the Solyndra plant in 2010

It turns out that two major Obama 2008 fundraisers benefited from the decision by the Department of Energy to go ahead with a risky $535 million loan to Solyndra, the solar energy company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month.

Steve Spinner, who helped monitor the Energy Department’s issuance of $25 billion in government loan guarantees to renewable energy projects, was one of Obama’s top fundraisers in 2008 and is raising money for the president’s 2012 reelection campaign.

Steve Spinner

Spinner did not have any role in the selection of applicants for the loan program and, in fact, was recused from the decision to grant a $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc. because his wife’s law firm represented the company, administration officials said Friday.

But Spinner’s role as a top official in the Energy Department program, which had not been previously revealed, is likely to spur new inquiries into whether political influence played a role in the handling of the “green” energy fund. Solyndra faces a congressional probe, a criminal investigation and separate internal inquiries at the Energy and Treasury departments.

Steve Spinner raised $500,000 for the Obama campaign in 2008, and he is currently organizing a fundraising drive for 2012 called “Technology for Obama.” Spinner is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. According to the LA Times, Spinner praised the Solyndra loan in a piece at the Center for American Progress on July 13. He did not disclose his involvement with the loan program in that article.

We’ve already heard about the second major Obama donor involved with Solyndra, George Kaiser.

The largest investments in Solyndra were funds operated on behalf of the family foundation of billionaire George Kaiser, another major fundraiser for Obama in 2008. Kaiser has denied personally investing in the solar energy company or talking to White House officials about the loan.

But I hadn’t heard before that when it looked like Solyndra might go bankrupt in February of 2011, the Obama administration restructured the loan so that in case Solyndra did go bankrupt, a Kaiser investment company and another private investor associated with the Walton family would be reimbursed before taxpayers.

Under terms of the February loan restructuring, two private investors — Argonaut Ventures I LLC and Madrone Partners LP — stand to be repaid before the U.S. government if the solar company is liquidated. The two firms gave the company a total of $69 million in emergency loans. The loans are the only portion of their investments that have repayment priority above the U.S. government.

Argonaut is an investment vehicle of the George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa, Okla. The foundation is headed by billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama campaign contributor and a frequent visitor to the White House. Kaiser raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign, federal election records show. Kaiser has made at least 16 visits to the president’s aides since 2009, according to White House visitor logs.

Madrone Partners is affiliated with the Walton family, descendants of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Rob Walton, the eldest son of Sam Walton, contributed $2,500 last year to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

In addition,

Newly released emails show the White House was worried about the likely effect of a default by Solyndra on Obama’s re-election campaign.

“The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad,” an OMB official wrote in a Jan. 31 email to a colleague. “The timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up.”

The budget official, whose name is blacked out in the email, wondered whether Solyndra should be allowed to restructure its loan.

“Questions will be asked as to why the administration made a bad investment, not just once (which could hopefully be explained as part of the challenge of supporting innovative technologies), but twice (which could easily be portrayed as bad judgment, or worse),” the email says.

According to conservative Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, the “Solyndra scandal reeks of the Chicago Way.”

Federal investigators want to know what role political fundraising played in the guarantee of the questionable loan. Washington bureaucrats warned the deal was lousy. And White House spokesmen flail desperately, like weakened victims in a cheesy vampire movie.

So forget optics. What about smell? It smells bad, and it’s going to smell worse.

Or, did you really believe it when the White House mouthpieces — who are also Chicago City Hall mouthpieces — promised they were bringing a new kind of politics to Washington?

[….]

It’s the Chicago Way, but instead of a paving or trucking contract, it’s a “green” solar panel contract. The company received a $535 million loan.

I guess he means pay for play and the taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Based on what I know so far, I can’t say I disagree with Kass.