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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

An Update on Jim Johnson

The problems unfolding for Barack Obama regarding his choice of Jim Johnson to advise him on his VP choice are unfolding and they are beginning to layer themselves. Here is the crux of the problem. The choice was an awful one. This problem seems to be compounded by the fact that the media has so far taken an interest in the situation. The more they do the worse it's going to be for Barack Obama.

Obama has several layered problems with the choice of Jim Johnson. First, besides choosing Johnson to the committee to search for his VP, he also chose Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder. We recently found out that Holder was deeply involved in the pardon of Marc Rich. This means that two of the three choices for his VP search committee have questionable qualifications. The VP search committee is the first decision that Obama made as the nominee.

Second, not only has Barack Obama railed against Countrywide but also against overpaid CEO's in non performing companies. Jim Johnson was the CEO of Fannie Mae while they struggled, and he got a sweetheart deal from Countrywide. This simply can't look worse for him. Here is how Obama described overpaid CEO's

Some CEOs make more in one day than their workers make in one year. There was a story about this in the paper the other day. They did a study and found that the top 50 CEOs made around $15.7 million last year – despite the fact that many of their companies have been falling behind.

We all believe in that fundamental, American value that if you do good work, if you're successful, you should be rewarded. But if you're a Wall Street CEO today, it doesn't seem to matter whether you're doing a good job or a bad job for your shareholders and workers: You'll be rewarded either way.

Here is how he described Countrywide.

"These are the folks who are responsible for infecting the economy and creating, helping create a home foreclosure crisis—2 million people may end up losing their homes," Obama fumed, pacing back and forth in front of a wooden lectern."Now what's wrong with this picture?" Obama continued, drawing shouts from the crowd. "Everything's wrong with it. But the problem is we've almost come to expect it…because nobody in Washington seems to be outraged about it."

Johnson even named Countrywide CEO, Angelo Mozilo, to an important committee while he ran Fannie Mae. Thus, what we have is an obscene amount of hypocrisy. While he attacks CEO's and Countrywide, he gets into bed with both. That certainly makes his populist theme seem fairly empty.

Here is how an exchange between a reporter and Obama sounded today.

And in addition," Miller continued, "another person on that same VP search team – Eric Holder -- has also been involved in the Marc Rich scandal."

"Well, look," Obama said, "the, the, I mean - first of all I am not vetting my VP
search committee for their mortgages, so you’re gong to have to direct -- " "But shouldn’t you?" asked Miller.

"Well, no," Obama said. "It becomes sort of a, um, I mean, this is a game that can be played - everybody, you know, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships -- I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters. I mean, at some point, you know, we just asked people to do their assignments.

I doubt very much that this distinction will be seen positively by most voters.

The problems of Jim Johnson come from two very fundamental and dicey tactics that Obama has tried to employ. The first is that Obama has tried to create a very lofty image that is nearly impossible for any politician to match. He is above politics, a new kind of politician, and he will change the way things are done in Washington. Those are nice ideas, however they are nearly impossible to for any politician achieve.

By saying things like this he leaves himself wide open whenever he goes negative, obfuscates, waffles, or employs any of the shady characters that filter through Washington. Time and again his lofty rhetoric hasn't matched his performance, and this is another example. When he finally threw Reverend Wright under the proverbial bus, it was seen as political. That is of course the opposite of his lofty rhetoric.

Second, playing class warfare is only effective until your own behavior is examined. Sure, CEO's are easy targets, but once you make them your enemies you had better not come into contact with any. That is no easy task when you run for President. Powerful people are always in the same circles with other powerful people. Attacking poweful CEO's for obscene salaries and compensation packages made for a nice stump speech but eventually that sort of class warfare would wind up biting him because it was only a matter of time before he got into bed with exactly the sort of folk he was demonizing. It's no different than raising capital gains taxes in order to create "fairness" as Obama boasts. That sounds all good and well until you examine what such a move would do to the stock market. Because class warfare is almost always a tool of politics, not good policy, once that is exposed, then the emporer really has no clothes.

This whole affair could have serious and devastating effects on Obama. The whole affair goes to the very fiber of his campaign theme, and it threatens to expose it all as nothing more than politicking. Obama has no record, no experience, or accomplishments, and thus if he has no theme, he has nothing. Just imagine how easy it would be to juxtapose Obama's tough talk against CEO's and Countrywide with allusions to his choice of Jim Johnson to head his VP search committee into an advertisement.


Anonymous said...

This is not going to cause any problems for Sen, Obama because it is a non issue. It certainly didn't creat an issue when George W. Bush asked a wealth oil executive, Dick Cheney to vet his VPs and Cheney ended up choosing himself. What makes you think this is even going to rejister with the american voters?

Anonymous said...

Obama was/is a stutter, has been since a child.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Political Pyrate...non-issue, gone tomorrow.

mike volpe said...

It comes down to a few things. The first is consistency and hypocrisy. Obama can't make it a theme to change Washington and then make his first choice a Washington insider. That doesn't work. The simple fact that the only defense that Obama and his surrogates have is to point out other instances of such problems for other politicians speaks for itself. There is no excusing this choice, and it goes against everything he claims to stand for.

That's the reason this is such a problem. It is the exact opposite of every theme he builds his campaign on. He has no experience, accomplishments, or history of anything to draw on. If he has no theme he has nothing.

Yes, it would be a bit provocative to claim that this is the deathknell of his campaign. Of course, it isn't. The site is called the Provocateur. That said, there is a drip factor. This adds another drip to the Obama campaign. It adds another episode that challenges everything he claims to be about. There are only so many missteps before your theme means nothing.

Furthermore, the press conference was yet another example of how painful he can be when he has no script.