Commentary Magazine


Topic: 2012 Democratic National Convention

Democrats’ Convention of Hypocrisy

The “hope and change” mantra that lifted Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008 raised unrealistic assumptions about his administration that were bound to be debunked after a few years in office. That’s why his re-election campaign strategy is based on demonizing his opponents rather than running on a record of all the “change” he effected. Yet there are some vestiges of the messianic tone of his 2008 run that remain, and one of them is a ban on corporate sponsors at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The ban is a holdover from the rhetoric of four years ago that asserted the Obama candidacy would bring an end to the way lobbyists and big business attempt to influence politics. This was a joke even four years ago as the Democrat raked in record contributions from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street titans and corporate giants. But the 2012 convention in Charlotte will be free of such sponsors, allowing the Democrats to claim they are faithful to their ideals.

However, as the New York Times reports today, the leading local booster and organizer of the Charlotte convention just happens to be the CEO of the nation’s largest energy company, which has been a major beneficiary of the president’s trillion-dollar stimulus boondoggle. Duke Energy CEO James E. Rogers claims that he and his company are going all out to help the Democratic jamboree as a matter of local pride. But the company’s costly contributions to the event have raised serious issues about the way it stands to benefit from Obama’s policies, making a mockery of the Democrats’ pose as the opponents of corporate influence. Rather than a tribute to the party’s stand against influence peddling, the lack of other corporate sponsors merely illustrates President Obama’s ongoing hypocrisy about big business and ethics.

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The “hope and change” mantra that lifted Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008 raised unrealistic assumptions about his administration that were bound to be debunked after a few years in office. That’s why his re-election campaign strategy is based on demonizing his opponents rather than running on a record of all the “change” he effected. Yet there are some vestiges of the messianic tone of his 2008 run that remain, and one of them is a ban on corporate sponsors at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The ban is a holdover from the rhetoric of four years ago that asserted the Obama candidacy would bring an end to the way lobbyists and big business attempt to influence politics. This was a joke even four years ago as the Democrat raked in record contributions from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street titans and corporate giants. But the 2012 convention in Charlotte will be free of such sponsors, allowing the Democrats to claim they are faithful to their ideals.

However, as the New York Times reports today, the leading local booster and organizer of the Charlotte convention just happens to be the CEO of the nation’s largest energy company, which has been a major beneficiary of the president’s trillion-dollar stimulus boondoggle. Duke Energy CEO James E. Rogers claims that he and his company are going all out to help the Democratic jamboree as a matter of local pride. But the company’s costly contributions to the event have raised serious issues about the way it stands to benefit from Obama’s policies, making a mockery of the Democrats’ pose as the opponents of corporate influence. Rather than a tribute to the party’s stand against influence peddling, the lack of other corporate sponsors merely illustrates President Obama’s ongoing hypocrisy about big business and ethics.

Rogers is under fire not so much for the way he has used his perch at the company to help raise money for the Democrats as the manner in which Duke Energy has donated office space and guaranteed a loan to enable the financing of the convention. While as the Times notes, the Democrats sent out a fundraising letter last year with Michelle Obama’s signature promising “a different convention for a different time,” the company’s outsized role as a sponsor combined with the fact that it received $226 million from the president’s stimulus and energy initiatives has exposed the Democrats to both mockery and legitimate complaints.

The problem here is not so much the obvious conflict of interest as Duke Energy, which stands to rake in even more presents from the government if Obama is re-elected, plays host in Charlotte. Rather it is the pretense that the Democrats are trying to cleanse the political system of the influence of money. Even many Democrats admit that it is not possible to eliminate corporate contributions to hold conventions and that the Republicans, who have no such faux restrictions, are being a lot more honest about it this year.

As President Obama has proved during his four years in office, his administration has broken new ground in crony capitalism as the stimulus and other measures poured money from government coffers into the pockets of companies like Solyndra that had a friend in the White House. It is not so much the spectacle of Democratic corruption that grates on the voters but the president’s pose of being above such petty concerns. Contrary to the way it is being sold to the public, the Democratic convention is a tribute to the venality of their candidate, not his ethics.

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Groups Blast Carter’s Role at Convention

As Jonathan wrote earlier today, former President Jimmy Carter has been granted a prime-time speaking role at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, despite his history of anti-Israel activism and objections from liberal Jewish groups. Both the National Jewish Democratic Council and Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman criticized Carter’s convention role in comments to “Contentions” today.

“He is flawed, he’s got an obsession with Israel, a biased obsession that borders on anti-Semitism,” said Foxman. “So that’s not somebody I think should grace the podium of a national convention.”

Foxman added that Carter probably lobbied organizers for the speaking role, putting the DNC in an awkward position. “I don’t think he deserves to be there, except it’s hard to refuse a platform to a former living president especially when he asks for it,” said Foxman.

NJDC President and CEO David Harris also unloaded on Carter in an emailed statement.

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As Jonathan wrote earlier today, former President Jimmy Carter has been granted a prime-time speaking role at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, despite his history of anti-Israel activism and objections from liberal Jewish groups. Both the National Jewish Democratic Council and Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman criticized Carter’s convention role in comments to “Contentions” today.

“He is flawed, he’s got an obsession with Israel, a biased obsession that borders on anti-Semitism,” said Foxman. “So that’s not somebody I think should grace the podium of a national convention.”

Foxman added that Carter probably lobbied organizers for the speaking role, putting the DNC in an awkward position. “I don’t think he deserves to be there, except it’s hard to refuse a platform to a former living president especially when he asks for it,” said Foxman.

NJDC President and CEO David Harris also unloaded on Carter in an emailed statement.

“When it comes to Israel and the Middle East, President Carter has unfortunately embarrassed himself — as his analysis and commentary has been stubbornly wrong, harmful to the peace process, and getting worse all the time,” said Harris. “I’m confident that he won’t be speaking to the Party about Middle East policy.”

Harris added: “I’d like to know if Senator Rand Paul will be spreading his views of the Middle East and foreign aid in Tampa.”

While Harris and Foxman expect Carter to stay away from Middle East issues in his speech, it sounds like the former president will be weighing in on foreign policy. The DNC said in a statement today that Carter will address “unique insights about President Obama as a global leader.” The DNC also called the former president, who has supported conspiratorial theories about the Israel lobby, “one of the greatest humanitarian leaders of our time and a champion of democracy around the globe.” Carter will give his speech via satellite during a “prime-time” slot, according to the DNC.

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Why is Carter Getting Convention Spot?

The two national party conventions long ago ceased to be deliberative bodies and are now nothing but scripted infomercials for the presidential candidates. Which is to say that the only people allowed a voice at these affairs are those whose views are broadly approved of by either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Thus, the news that the Democratic National Convention will feature a prime time speech via video by former President Jimmy Carter is surprising. Carter has not only sometimes been critical of Obama, his extreme views on Middle East are an embarrassment to a president and a party that has been engaging in an election year charm offensive aimed at convincing Jewish voters that they are devoted to Israel. The praise given Carter by Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement announcing the spot could come back to haunt the Democrats. Honoring one of the most ferocious critics of Israel in this manner may not sit well with many undecided Jewish voters.

While former presidents are, at least in theory, entitled to a convention speaking spot, those who are embarrassments are often shunted aside. Though he still has many fans in the GOP, George W. Bush isn’t going to be at the Republican Convention this year. In 2008, Carter was given the brush off by the Obama team during the convention with just a short video clip honoring his humanitarian work for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and no speech. Given how anxious the Democrats have been to portray themselves as unflinching allies of Israel this year, it is curious that they would allow Carter to speak at all in Charlotte, let alone in prime time. If the Obama campaign was looking to give Republicans an opportunity to highlight one of the most prominent foes of the Jewish State and link him to the president and the Democrats, they can do no better than honoring Carter in this manner.

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The two national party conventions long ago ceased to be deliberative bodies and are now nothing but scripted infomercials for the presidential candidates. Which is to say that the only people allowed a voice at these affairs are those whose views are broadly approved of by either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Thus, the news that the Democratic National Convention will feature a prime time speech via video by former President Jimmy Carter is surprising. Carter has not only sometimes been critical of Obama, his extreme views on Middle East are an embarrassment to a president and a party that has been engaging in an election year charm offensive aimed at convincing Jewish voters that they are devoted to Israel. The praise given Carter by Convention Chair Antonio Villaraigosa in a statement announcing the spot could come back to haunt the Democrats. Honoring one of the most ferocious critics of Israel in this manner may not sit well with many undecided Jewish voters.

While former presidents are, at least in theory, entitled to a convention speaking spot, those who are embarrassments are often shunted aside. Though he still has many fans in the GOP, George W. Bush isn’t going to be at the Republican Convention this year. In 2008, Carter was given the brush off by the Obama team during the convention with just a short video clip honoring his humanitarian work for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and no speech. Given how anxious the Democrats have been to portray themselves as unflinching allies of Israel this year, it is curious that they would allow Carter to speak at all in Charlotte, let alone in prime time. If the Obama campaign was looking to give Republicans an opportunity to highlight one of the most prominent foes of the Jewish State and link him to the president and the Democrats, they can do no better than honoring Carter in this manner.

Though Carter has been lionized abroad and given the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism since leaving office, the man from Plains is best known in recent years for his consistent bashing of the state of Israel. A virulent foe of the Jewish state, Carter has falsely accused it of practicing apartheid and was prominently featured in past Republican attempts to highlight the way many on the left have become the most dangerous enemies of Israel in the United States.

In 2008, Jewish Democrats who were determined to brand Barack Obama as a friend of Israel were pleased by the decision on the part of convention organizers to give Carter as little honor as possible. The short shrift given the former president, was, as the Forward reported in August 2008, widely interpreted as an indication of the Obama campaign’s seriousness of purpose in competing for the Jewish vote.

Though Democrats will probably say that having Carter speak by video is not as damaging as having him appear in person, the prime time slot for his speech is still significant. For all of their pains in trying to explain Obama’s three years of constant fights with Israel and laughable attempts to claim the president is the best friend Israel ever had in the White House, the inclusion of Carter is a troubling indication that the leadership of the Democratic Party isn’t really all that interested in appealing for the pro-Israel vote. Those observers, like Carter’s fans in the Palestinian Authority, who are hopeful a re-elected Obama will turn on Israel, will likely be encouraged by the Democrats’ decision.

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