Among the full roster of about 150 staff members being assigned to government agencies between now and Inauguration Day are dozens of former lobbyists and some who were registered as recently as this year. Many more are executives and partners at firms that pay lobbyists, and former government officials who work as consultants or advisers to those seeking influence.
Welcome to reality. For some of us, the whole “New Politics” pitch was always a canard, a cynical sales pitch. Barack Obama didn’t eschew misleading ads. He didn’t keep to his word on public financing. And he hasn’t chased those dreaded lobbyists out of Washington. This should come as no surprise. This is how politics is done.
This duplicity might have annoyed Obama’s opponents –both Hillary Clinton and John McCain — who were often on the receiving end of his barbs about Washington insiders. They may have rolled their eyes in disgust as he presented himself, the willing ally of the Daley machine, as politically holier-than-thou. But he won, and now we will see if the President-elect will cater to those special interests he railed against and which now infest his transition team.
Can he say no to Big Labor? We will be able to judge if the Employee Free Choice Act reaches his desk, or if he goes forward with economically perilous protectionist measures. And we also will get a hint when education reform comes up and the teachers’ unions scream about school choice. We will see if the trial lawyers must suffer any setbacks in health care reform, accepting limits on malpractice suits. And if the new President shushes the environmental lobby and insists that offshore drilling must indeed be part of an energy plan, we will know he has risen to the occasion.
The more cynical among us suspect he has just changed “their” lobbyists for “his,” and that a new crew of equally self-interested and self-dealing officials is moving in to replace the old crew. The election is over — it is back to reality.