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Works and Days

Beware of the Mob

March 25th, 2012 - 11:31 am

Snow fell. Ice still formed outside the kitchen window. Chicago, as is its habit, got both really hot and really cold. Volvos still needed gas. People in Malibu still liked central heating. Philology adjusted accordingly. Global warming begat climate change and the latter begat climate chaos: if the planet were not hotter, then snow and ice were symptoms of such heating; and if even that were insufficient proof for us dunces, then tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes would have to do.

Yet the mob mentality began to fade, as revelations about everything from doctored research, politicized grant-giving, and false conclusions about glaciers, Greenland, and polar bears began appearing in the liberal news — suggesting that if such scandal made even the mainstream media, then the phrenology-like fad was nearing an end.

Obama had done his part in postponing the Keystone pipeline, putting oil on federal lands off-limits, and talking up boondoggles like the Chevy Volt and Solyndra. But the idea of $5 a gallon gas makes even the most liberal Santa Monica Volvo driver edgy, and now the global-warming movement has collapsed. Bush is in Texas, not the White House. Obama now blames Solyndra on Republicans, brags about entrepreneurial wildcatters in the Dakotas, does photo-ops in front of derricks, and promises to allow bits and pieces of the Keystone pipeline.

And the mob? Why hurt the liberal cause by going after Obama? Suddenly, the would-be-lynchers have left the sheriff’s office porch and are in twos and threes heading back home.

Postmodern Ethics

The mob, of course, had once tried to storm the jail to get at Bush over presidential ethics and decorum. It was a valiant effort. “Rovian politics” had polluted the national scene. PACs, the revolving door, lobbying, earmarks, and mega fundraising had ruined American politics. An Enron-insider mentality had warped the White House. “Swift-boating” was Rove-inspired character assassination.

Now? We live in an age of Peter Orszag, the OMB to Citibank monorail, and $1 million sent to the Obama PAC from the misogynist Bill Maher whose “t—t” and “c—t” are the sorts of popular smears against women that Obama does not wish his daughters to experience.

The idea of a Democrat running for president according to the rules of public campaign financing was destroyed four years ago by none other than Barack Obama. His genius lies in demonizing his donors as “fat cats”, “one-percenters,” and “corporate jet owners,” while they fork over cash, again on a medieval principle that the more you lecture the usurer or money-changer, the more he purchases penance for his soul by giving the church a marble block or two for the dome of the cathedral. Or is the shakedown not a shakedown, but rather a simple connivance for the big money guys — Obama is dead even in the polls, so why not keep a stiff upper lip and hedge your bets?

I think it was around January 2009 when ethics in government ceased to be an issue. Insider influence peddling suddenly became the necessary price of getting green energy. Bundling and corporate giving were vital to getting universal health care passed. And $35,000-a-head private dinners were a sort of castor oil, a bad-tasting medicine that led to better air and water for all of us. In those happy days, John Edwards was a populist idol. Jon Corzine put his financial expertise to work for hoi polloi. Steven Chu’s Nobel Prize-winning physics mind would be let loose on the pernicious carbon lobby.

Then it was all over. The Obama team of Goolsbee, Orszag, Romer, and Summers headed back to tenured berths or big money or both. “Millionaires and billionaires” meant skipping the insignificant former and concentrating on shaking down the important latter. Today, we just shrug when Obama lectures us at 9 a.m. on paying our fair share, and then does a $40,000-a-plate fundraiser in the Upper West Side or Palm Beach at noon.

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