Commentary Magazine


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Too Slick by Half

“Hoist with his own petard!”–or oil rig, I suppose–is what the McCain camp is crowing about with regard to campaign donations from “oil companies.” Barack Obama, who accused John McCain of receiving big money from big oil companies, it seems has received more money than McCain from the employees of the biggest oil companies. This sound familiar? He did it in the primary. He tried the same game, a lie really, when he accused Hillary Clinton of taking lobbyist and oil company company. That’s illegal of course and it turned out that he took his fair share of money from oil company employees.

Well, it happened again. And plenty of media outlets are calling foul. In fact, Obama had mounted an swift negative attack against McCain (with a cool Exxon logo) because of donations that McCain received from oil company employees. Now it turns out that among employees of big oil companies Obama leads in donations. By a lot. So the Obama team has more headaches in what was already a rotten week. The media always loves a good hyposcrisy tale.

But this was always really silly stuff by the Obama camp, appealing to what he perceives as unbridled paranoia about the influence of oil companies (and big business more generally). This is all about donations from individuals who happen to work for an oil company. A marketing or IT executive or a secretary (who last year may have worked for a university or law firm) may have decided to give to a candidate because of his energy policy, but also may have made a donation for entirely unrelated reasons. After all these are people not some amorphous corporate entity making the donations. And the fact that both candidates receive lots of money from employees in the same industry with varying political views seems to prove the point.

Ah, but you say, there is plenty of pressure applied to employees by their bosses to give to a particular candidate. I think sadly that’s true in some cases. But not all and even in those instances, the motives of the high flying execs may diverge from their employers. No one says that Obama is in the “pocket of communications companies” because so many Hollywood execs fork over millions of dollars to him.

So that’s a long way of saying this was a cynical ploy that went awry at a very inopportune time for The One. And aside from the political karma of this specific issue, there is more at work (which explains why the McCain camp is so giddy). This certainly is one more nail in the coffin of the New Politics canard. Obama was going to bring an end to gotcha politics? An end to made-up issues? Not from The One. He appears to be strictly old school. And what’s more, this time around his fan club in the mainstream media is leading the boos.