Barack Obama and his media cohorts have been playing gotcha with John McCain’s advisors who are or were lobbyists. It is obvious that he wants to scuff up McCain’s image as a maverick reformer. As I have argued before, it is a tough task because McCain really has been hard on special interests, to the chagrin of those interests that usually line up with his own party (i.e. drug companies). But if you are going to be holier than thou, you should be holier than thou.
The VP search committee represents Obama’s first significant set of appointments since winning the nomination. When he tapped James Johnson he got some flak, given Johnson’s reputation as a consumate Washington insider and his role in the troubled Fannie Mae. Now it turns out he got some nicely discounted loans through a “friends” program (who knew these just weren’t for phone companies?) of Countrywide CEO and favorite Democratic party villian Angelo Mozilo.
Perhaps someone should ask Henry Waxman what he thinks of this. Waxman, after all, seemed very concerned that “Our nation’s top executives seem to live by a different set of rules.”
Why would Obama select someone so obviously at odds with his New Politics image? Maybe his co-committee member Eric Holder did the vetting on Johnson. (He seems to have a hard time spotting conflicts of interest.) But more seriously, I think it’s clear that the whole New Politics/anti-insider bit is a canard and you simply can’t find competent people to run a campaign or administration who have never worked in Washington. That said, selecting someone who took discounted loans when you are running against the supposed evil-doers in the mortgage industry is potentially a big problem.
It will be interesting to see how strenuously the media, which has a front page story for every McCain team member with a lobbying connection, goes after Obama on this one. So far the story is attracting attention.