Magazine article The Spectator

The Audacity of Obama?

Magazine article The Spectator

The Audacity of Obama?

Article excerpt

Barack Obama knows that, after three unsuccessful years as P resident, he cannot again sell himself to the electorate as a messiah who brings hope and change. The hope that accompanied his election vanished as the American economy continued to sink. Little has changed. But the unpopularity of the Republicans - wid ely seen, even among conservatives, as America's nasty party - has given Obama an opportunity to re-invent himself for re-election in 2012. He is now the P resident who wants to 'give everyone a fair shot': he stands for honest, hard-working people against big business; for blue-collar jobs against multinational asset-strippers; for working mothers against Washington lobbyists.

As his exemplar, Obama has called on the legend of a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt.

According to popular history, TR stood up for plain folks against greedy plutocrats, and won. (He was also, curiously, the man upon whom John McCain tried to model himself when running against Obama in 2008. ) 'Roosevelt was called a radical . . . a socialist - even a communist, ' says Obama, who has been called a radical, a socialist and even a communist. 'But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for.' The message is clear: like Teddy, Barack can save the Republic from economic and moral bankruptcy and restore values of decency, hard work and common sense.

Which all sounds great - if only it were true. The Obama administration has repeatedly, at times scandalously, failed to practise what it preaches. Obama came to power saying that lobbyists 'won't find a job in my White House', then he appointed dozens of them to his administration.

On 21 January 2009 , he introduced by executive order a new 'ethics pledge' to bar what Washingtonians call 'the revolving door' - the system whereby highly paid bureaucrats rotate between senior government posts and private-sector jobs in companies with an interest in talking to the government.

'The pledge, ' said Obama, 'represents a clean break from business as usual' and 'will help restore faith in government'.

It didn't. Senior White House staff have carried on swapping posts in his administration for fat salaries in the private sphere. In December last year, for instance, Peter Orszag, who served almost two years as Obama's director of the Office of Management and Budget, became vice chairman of global banking at Citigroup, a role which, according to the Financial Times, would involve 'dealing with clients and top government officials rather than running a business'. Another example is Cathy Zoi, who left her job as assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the US Department of Energy to work for a George Soros fund that invests in green energy. Soros is a major Democratic donor, as it happens.

At the start of his presidency, Obama - channelling the other Roosevelt, Franklin Delano - excited liberals with talk of a 'Green New Deal'. The idea was that America could save the planet and make loads of money by becoming the world's leader in environmentally friendly technology. To this end, the government diverted $16.8 billion towards EERE to fuel eco-innovation. Questions soon emerged about the integrity of EERE and Ms Zoi, however. Her husband was an executive at Serious Materials, a small window manufacturer which was reportedly the first green company to receive a stimulus cheque. …

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