The historic nature of Barack Obama’s election has been matched only by the wealth of scandals, cronyism and shameless clamoring for power that has followed his march to Washington. To hover in his political orbit, he’s chosen the most politically cynical, even corrupt, group imaginable. They’re cutting backroom deals, disregarding legislative oversight, and changing both chambers of Congress from meritocracies to seniority-minded country clubs disrespecting minority party rights. It looks like some of them won’t even make it to office. If this roster for Team Hope’n’Change is the fruit of Obama’s attempts at Chicago-style power brokering during the campaign, then perhaps thankfully, he’s terrible at it.
Nancy “Ringleader” Pelosi: Pelosi’s illustrious tenure as Speakerwoman began with resolving to plow through much of her program in her first 100 hours. When that failed epically, she gave the same reason UPS gives when my Christmas gifts arrive on the December 29 — she meant business hours, silly. Her U.S. Congress now boasts an approval rating smaller than Vern Troyer’s shoe size. Last week, she helped pass a new rules package for the 111th Congress, killing term limits for committee chairmanships and weakening a long-standing weapon of the minority, the “motion to recommit.” Look out for extreme partisanship and more Robert Byrd types falling asleep, gavel in hand.
Eric “Inspector Clouseau” Holder: Pending confirmation, Holder would be the first black Attorney General. Coincidentally, he’s also the first person not to find a trace of corruption in Illinois politics after an investigation. The “special government agent” Blago also assigned to the same case was Christopher Kelly, a cohort of Tony Rezko, who coincidentally had a financial interest in the outcome. “Magoo” may be a better nickname for Holder, who would need a comically oversized magnifying glass to discern the conflict of interest staring him in the face. He’s also soft on terror, having assisted the Clinton administration in its controversial FALN sentence commutations and then coolly refusing to tell Congress why he’d defied the FBI and US Attorney’s Office.
Bill “Judas” Richardson: The New Mexico Governor’s involvement in another potential pay-to-play scandal has been on the radar since August, yet he’s only just withdrawn his name for Commerce Secretary. To the surprise of only Obama’s vetters, Richardson hails from the second-most corrupt state in the Union, one he’ll have to settle for governing despite being “eager to serve in the future.” This is like the good old days when Obama supported Blagojevich for reelection while he was the subject of nine federal investigations.
Caroline “You Know” Kennedy: Clinton’s ascension to Secretary of State has conveniently left a vacancy open for yet another of Obama’s early supporters. This time, it’s Sweet Caroline, cracking open the door of her penthouse to peek her agoraphobic doe-eyes out into the world, and still adjusting, ever so self-consciously, to the light. The feigned “Aw, shucks!” routine is almost as annoying as Cousin Patrick laboriously leaning over in his stool, leering over Ted to make sure he was in frame during coverage of the family’s now-obviously calculated Obama endorsement. It’s taken tabloid New York Magazine to point out that, having sold more books, even The Nanny’s Fran Drescher is more qualified on paper by Kennedy’s own standards. Then again, Kennedy managed to insult both The New York Times and all women’s magazines in a recent interview with the former. Maybe Kennedy is on the, you know, right track, after all.
Hilda “The Kiss-Up” Solis: Solis was previously known only for her tiff with Rep. Joe Baca, who called her a Pelosi “kiss-up” (can you think of anything worse?), necessitating an apology in the Washington Post. Now Solis is making waves of her own supporting “card check,” allowing labor representatives to take a vote to form a new chapter without a secret ballot. That policy is potentially harmful to American workers who could be pressed into voting to form unions in which they don’t want to participate. As the Wall Street Journal points out though, Solis managed to limit to unions her propensity for encroaching on workers’ privacy, while she deemed secret ballots necessary when dealing with employers throughout her state legislative career. That Solis’ about-face came as the AFL-CIO put “card check” at the top of its legislative agenda is equally troubling.
Rahm ‘Rahmbo the Eloquent” Emanuel: Emanuel once told Tony Blair not to “f*** up” a press conference with President Clinton during Monicagate. When his right middle finger was severed in a childhood accident, he lamented, “Of all the fingers to lose!” He eventually adapted, but admits, “I had to learn to talk with my left hand.”
Hillary Clinton, MVP: Just like it took Britney to make K-Fed look like a good dad, it’s taken the Obama team to make a Clinton the voice of reason.