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Michelle Malkin: Obama’s team is corrupt

President Barack Obama lacks the will to change Washington politics, Michelle Malkin says in her new book, "Culture of Corruption." An excerpt.
/ Source: TODAY books

In her new book, “Culture of Corruption,” Michelle Malkin says that President Barack Obama has had dozens of corrupt dealings. An excerpt.

Introduction: All hail the achievatrons! Phew. Janitors in newsrooms across America worked overtime in the halcyon days after Barack Obama won the presidency. It wasn’t easy cleaning the drool off laptops and floors in the offices of journalists covering the Greatest Transition in World History.

New York Times columnist David Brooks laid claim to the most soaked keyboard and stained carpet in the business. He praised Team Obama’s “open-minded individuals” and “admired professionals.” He raved about their “postpartisan rhetoric” and “practical creativity.” And — ooooh-la-la! — how about the brains of all those brainy brainiacs? So smokin’ hot:

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus. Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists. They typically served in the Clinton administration and then, like Cincinnatus, retreated to the comforts of private life — that is, if Cincinnatus had worked at Goldman Sachs, Williams & Connolly or the Brookings Institution. So many of them send their kids to Georgetown Day School, the posh leftish private school in D.C., that they’ll be able to hold White House staff meetings in the carpool line.

It had only been seventeen days since Election Day. But the president-elect (complete with his own “Office of the President-Elect” logo) and his team of valedictocrats (armed with their Ivy League degrees) had already bowled Brooks over with their organizational prowess:

And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition…

Most of all, they are picking Washington insiders. Or to be more precise, they are picking the best of the Washington insiders. As a result, the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory.

…Believe me, I’m trying not to join in the vast, heaving Ophoria now sweeping the coastal haute bourgeoisie. But the personnel decisions have been superb. The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left or would suffer self-inflicted wounds because of his inexperience. He’s off to a start that nearly justifies the hype.

And Brooks’s employer has profited mightily from the hype. Celebrating Obama’s 100-day mark, New York Times reporter Jennifer Lee exulted that the financially troubled Fishwrap of Record had sold $2 million worth of Obama-themed merchandise. The Times has a vested financial interest in propping up the Obama administration.

At ABC News, former Democrat operative-turned-objective newsman George Stephanopoulos also exhibited the symptoms of the Obama transition’s salivary gland stimulus. “We have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes,” Stephanopoulos dribbled. After blotting his chin a bit, he added: “[He]’s managed his transition with the same kind of precision and discipline that he managed to show during the campaign. ... It’s hard to imagine this transition going much better for the president-elect.”

The Washington Post and Newsweek both indulged in Transition-mania, launching websites featuring by-the-minute blogging of Barack Obama’s “historic” and “unprecedented” ascension to power. The New York Times told the story of how the savvy Obama made a phone call thirteen days before the election to send a feeler out to General James Jones for the national security adviser post. Thirteen whole days! As if no other incoming president over the last 232 years had come up with the genius concept of reaching out to potential nominees before inauguration day.

This used to be called planning ahead.

In the most “historic” and “unprecedented” incoming administration in our lifetimes, Obama’s phone call was hailed as a visionary advance mobilization for the benefit of Western civilization.

An inconvenient aside: For all the hype about the Greatest Transition in World History, Obama failed to beat the pace of the Reagan White House. By Day 100, Obama had 65 officials confirmed. Reagan had 73 — and the Evil Republicans did it without all the bungles and baggage that the Angels of Obama brought with them. “Obama’s a faster turtle, but he’s still a turtle,” transition analyst Paul Light observed — his voice of reason drowned out amid the media frenzy.

Journalists and cable TV talking heads chattered endlessly about Obama’s “record speed” on the one hand and his “exhaustive” vetting process on the other. Application forms ran on for 7 pages and 63 questions, the New York Times marveled. (The Bush-Cheney vice presidential application form was 200 pages. But when Republicans require rigorous background checks, it’s not “exhaustive,” it’s a paranoid invasion of privacy. But I digress.)

President-elect Obama next dispatched hundreds of meticulous “agency review team” members — “135 people divided into 10 groups, along with a list of other advisers” — into the bowels of the federal government. Their mission: To “rigorously examine programs and policies” and expedite the transfer of power. The transition team leaders wore smart yellow badges on the job with “Yes, We Can”-do attitudes to match.

Awestruck Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts of ABC News echoed the conventional wisdom: “Some would say it’s a team of rivals, à la President Lincoln, or is a better comparison a team of geniuses as FDR did?”

I wrote this book to give you the exhaustive answer that President Obama’s gyrating media harem doesn’t want you to read.

“Crony,” William Safire tells us, comes from seventeenth-century college slang at Cambridge University in England. The word is rooted in the Greek khronios (“long-lasting”) from khronos (“time”). Safire traced its etymological evolution in the United States:

…[C]rony took on a pejorative connotation as the sinister side of “friend” — more of a hanger-on, the recipient of favors for old times’ sake. In 1946, when President Harry Truman’s poker-playing friends brought disrepute on his Administration, the New York Times columnist Arthur Krock wrote that “New Dealers and Conservatives found themselves together in opposition to what a press gallery wit has called a ‘government by crony.’”

Obama’s team — the “best of the Washington insiders,” as David Brooks called it — is a dysfunctional and dangerous conglomerate of business-as-usual cronies. They play basketball with the president now instead of poker, but they are every bit as disreputable and demanding as their 1940s counterparts. The administration is teeming with long-lasting favor-seekers in government, business, and the lucrative bridge in between. The corruption stretches from wealthy power brokers Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett, to pay-to-play-tainted Michelle Obama and Joe Biden, to ethically challenged, bailout-bungling money men Larry Summers and Tim Geithner at Treasury, crime-coddling corporate lawyer Eric Holder at DOJ, to the crooked Service Employees International Union, the shakedown artists at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, and the ever-expanding swamp of Washington lobbyists.

This book pulls together the familiar and not-so-familiar pieces of the transition in crisis to force Obama hagiographers to confront an alternate narrative. A reality-based narrative. A narrative of incompetence, nepotism, influence-peddling, and self-dealing that defies the stubborn myth that Barack Obama is the One True Agent of Hope and Change.

While pundits cooed over Obama’s “Achievatrons” and their unbridled “star power,” nomination after nomination imploded. The White House and its allies dismissed each failure as a “hiccup,” a “bump in the road,” or a “goof.” Meanwhile, the pace of withdrawals and botched appointments was “record-setting” and “unprecedented.” Some of the names you’ll recognize. Some you’ve never heard of because Obama’s cheerleaders were too busy glorifying the Greatest Transition in World History. Among the fallen:

• Bill Richardson (corruption scandal)

• Tom Daschle (taxes, ethics)

• Nancy Killefer (taxes)

• Annette Nazareth (allegations of incompetence)

• Caroline Atkinson (taxes)

• H. Rodgin Cohen (conflicts of interest)

• Frank Brosens (“personal” reasons)

• Scott Polakoff (allegations of fraud)

• Jon Cannon (ties to embezzlement scam)

• Charles Freeman (foreign government cronyism)

And those were just some of the bodies thrown under the bus before the 100-day mark. Heckuva job, Obama vetters!

But getting through the confirmation process was no guarantee of ethical cleanliness or competence. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, of course, tops the list of Senate-confirmed Obama bombs. Mentored by Wall Street power brokers Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, he played key roles in bungling Indonesia’s economy and engineering the Bear Stearns and AIG bailout fiascos. And that was before his prolonged failure to pay back taxes on illegal immigrant household help (along with his acceptance of reimbursement money for taxes he didn’t pay) was discovered and before his sheepish admission that he had approved the AIG bonuses his boss decried as “shameful” and “outrageous.”

After Bill Richardson and GOP Senator Judd Gregg bowed out of the Commerce Secretary position, President Obama settled on former Democrat Governor of Washington, Gary Locke. The national papers called him “strait-laced” and hailed his “clean reputation.” Both liberals and conservatives in his home state called that a crock. As governor, he gave billions in tax breaks to Boeing while failing to disclose that he had retained a paid Boeing private consultant and auditor to advise him on the matter. In the governor’s mansion, Locke had his own Billy Carter — a brother-in-law who mooched off the family name to secure tax breaks and job opportunities. And on top of all that, the corporate lawyer Locke (who specialized in trade issues with China) was involved in not one, not two, but three campaign finance scandals involving tainted Asian cash. Perhaps suffering from Commerce Secretary withdrawal fatigue, the Senate confirmed Locke by unanimous consent.

Hostility to transparency is a running thread through Obama’s cabinet:

• The No. 2 official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, former King County, Washington, Executive Ron Sims, has the distinction of being the most fined government official in his state’s history for suppressing public records from taxpayers.

• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for years fought disclosure of massive donations from foreign governments and corporations who filled her husband’s library and foundation coffers.

• Top Obama advisor David Axelrod ran fear-mongering campaigns in Illinois in support of a huge utility rate hike — and failed to disclose that his ads were funded by Commonwealth Edison in Chicago.

• Labor Secretary Hilda Solis failed to disclose that she was director and treasurer of a union-promoting lobbying group pushing legislation that she was co-sponsoring as a congresswoman.

• Attorney General Eric Holder overruled his own lawyers in the Justice Department over the issue of D.C. voting rights (which he and President Obama support) and refused to make public the staffers’ opinion that a House bill on the matter was unconstitutional.

President Obama set the tone, breaking his transparency pledge with the very first bill he signed into law. On January 29, 2009, the White House announced that the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act had been posted online for review. One problem: Obama had already signed it—in violation of his “sunlight before signing” pledge to post legislation for public comment on the White House website five days before he sealed any deal. “[W]hen there is a bill that ends up on my desk as a president, you the public will have five days to look online and find out what’s in it before I sign it, so that you know what your government’s doing,” he had vowed.

But Obama broke the pledge again with the mad rush to pass his trillion-dollar, pork-stuffed stimulus package full of earmarks he denied existed. Jim Harper of the Cato Institute reported in April 2009: “Of the eleven bills President Obama has signed, only six have been posted on None have been posted for a full five days after presentment from Congress. The President has signed most bills within a day or two of their presentment from Congress, violating his campaign promise. He has signed two bills more than five days after presentment, but — ironically, because it preserves the broken promise — not posted them on”

It’s this utter disregard for taxpayer accountability that prompted hundreds of thousands of citizens to take to the streets on Tax Day 2009 for Tea Party protests. The trampling of transparency in the stimulus debate inspired signs that read: “No legislation without deliberation” and “READ THE BILL FIRST.” Obama’s response was first to claim that he hadn’t even heard of the Tea Party movement and then, on his 100-day celebration, to deride all those Americans he is supposed to represent of “playing games.” Projection, anyone?

Excerpted from "Culture of Corruption" by Michelle Malkin. Copyright (c) 2009, reprinted with permission from Penguin Group.