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Goldman-Sux
Is Obama Honest*?

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
April 23, 2010

Matt Drudge, maven of right wing web presences, has spent the past couple of days gleefully flogging the fact that the Goldman-Sachs' PAC and employees donated some $950,000 to the Obama campaign in 2008, and demanded to know if Obama was going to return the money.

By itself, it isn't that extraordinary an event. It's political posturing, but nobody with any brains at all thinks Drudge is anything resembling an independent journalist. He runs a concentrator site, with a conduit for GOP propaganda as a kind of an in-the-door ice-cube maker feature. To that end, he often makes grand stands on behalf of the Republican Party. He has been doing so since he got his big break when someone in Ken Starr's office illegally leaked the Monica Lewinsky story to him way back then. Even in 1998, Matt Drudge was the GOP's bend-over boy.

And of course, it's normal for politicos to stand and grandly demand that a politician repudiate the crooks who were obviously trying to subvert the American process and do so by renouncing and abjuring all campaign donations. Sometimes, the outfit in question is sleazy enough, and there's enough public outrage, that the politician under fire actually does make a big show of returning the funds.

Now, there's a pretty good chance that Goldman-Sachs reaches critical mass on the sleaze-o-meter. I suspect that if the newspapers and TV stations gave them the type of scrutiny they might have used back in the 50s, there would be riots in lower Manhattan and you would see the naked carcasses of G-S senior officers hanging up-side-down from lampposts.

That would almost certainly be a major violation of zoning codes and health and safety regulations, so its probably just as well that the servile corporate press of America will simply shiver, hunch its shoulders in, and pretend that it's much more important to know if the famous golfer is shooting as many birdies off the golf course as he is on it.

Oh, I know, we have corporate personhood, so I'm required by law to assume that Goldman-Sachs is innocent until proven guilty. Fine. They're as pure as the driven snow, right? Right.

Except...

Well, ok. If it's the right and proper thing to assume that Goldman-Sachs is innocent of wrongdoing, then isn't it kind of jumping the gun demanding that Obama return the funds? After all, they aren't guilty of anything yet. Hell, in a country where a birth defect can be called a “pre-existing condition”, it's possible they will never be guilty of anything.

In which case, why demand that Obama return their money?

There were some interesting words missing from Matt Drudge's moral conniptions. Words like “John McCain” or “GOP donations” or “other financial sector companies”.

It turns out that Goldman-Sachs donated through their PAC about a quarter million to McCain's campaign. Granted, that's only about a quarter of what they gave to Obama, but they are an investment house. They know to cover their bets, but that doesn't mean putting equal amounts on the born-to-lose nag with the missing body parts and the crazy jockey from Alaska who thinks she can win by running the track in a clockwise direction.

Unlike Obama, whose main contributors covered several major economic sectors, McCain's top ten consisted mostly of investment houses (8 of the top 10). We've been hearing that Goldman-Sachs is only “the tip of the iceberg”, and we have to assume a lot of that hidden ice is in the form of the other brokerage houses. It's unlikely that the other miscreants would be ACORN or even the Catholic Church.

So the majority of McCain's funding came from other brokerage houses, most of which are doubtlessly just as innocent as Goldman-Sachs.

And yet, oddly enough, there were no squeaks from Drudge demanding to know when McCain would return the poisoned funds from those sweet, innocent brokerage houses.

Other GOP organs, such as Faux News and the Lunatic Times, took up the chant, and an interesting sub-text developed.

In this framing, it was assumed that if Obama was going to have his justice department press charges against Goldman-Sachs of fraud, then the least he could do would be to return their money.

If you were a mobster, and you paid a cop a couple of grand to look the other way while the pet store up the street that owed you $50,000 mysteriously caught fire, and then the cop arrested you for arson, why, you would be entitled to demand your money back, right? After all, you paid out perfectly good money in return for a specific service, and that service wasn't rendered.

Now, there are many people, including a few lawyers and even a politician or two, who might nit-pick and point out that because the contract was illegal in its essential nature, it wouldn't be binding, and I'm sure you can find any number of libertarians who are prepared to swear that this was exactly the sort of situation the framers of the Constitution had in mind, and the rights of the mobster and the cop must be observed at least as scrupulously as those of the late pet store owner.

It is important at this point that I mention that I am not comparing Goldman-Sachs to mobsters, and would no more accuse them of immorality then I would of fraud, theft, swinishness, viciousness, cruelty, psychopathy or any of a hundred other crimes and/or moral failings. I certainly wouldn't want to create the impression that Goldman-Sachs should be seen in such a light.

So the framing is this: Goldman-Sachs paid good money to ensure that politicians wouldn't mess with them if they were to get caught in a compromising position. Since, by threatening to hit them with fraud, Obama was very clearly not holding up his end of the implied agreement, he should return the money.

This takes McCain off the hook, because he isn't pressing to have Goldman-Sachs investigated for fraud, and thus isn't in violation of the covenant he agreed to with them.

By Republican standards, he's a very moral man who understands the Mark Twain principle that an honest politician is one who stays bought. Therefore, he can keep the money, not that it did him any good anyway.

At least the Loony Times has a recognizable stance, even if it isn't one that you might associate with Pulitzer Prizes and Socratic ideals. Poor old Rush Limbaugh was so intent on trying to have it both ways at once that in the space of a single paragraph, he accused Obama of plotting to bail out the big banks, and of plotting to destroy them. This makes Rush the first recorded man to manage to hang, draw, and quarter HIMSELF. In one paragraph. Didn't even need the four horses.

There's a few other words missing from Matt Drudge's little campaign. These would be words like “corruption”, “bribery” and “shady backroom deals”. Oh, I imagine he'll start using the word “corruption” to describe Obama once it becomes clear that Obama is keeping the bribe and still prosecuting. But the rest will be missing from the polemic.

I've been having some fun on the Internet the past couple of days potshotting right wingers who took up Drudge's chant of “Return the campaign contributions” by asking if this meant the right winger in question was preparing to rethink his position on public campaign finance.

Right wingers tend to be servile types, and some see nothing wrong with Goldman-Sachs cutting a few corners in order to enhance their productivity. Others see where a persnickety prosecutor could convince a jury that Goldman-Sachs were the bad guys, but remind me that unless and until that happens, Goldman-Sachs is at least as innocent as OJ Simpson. Others see nothing wrong with Goldman-Sachs contributing lavishly to a man many of them consider to be a socialist. (All bankers are socialists. Didn't you know that?) They are, of course, outraged at public financing, which is a socialist plot, apparently to stop bankers from donating to socialists.

They all scramble to avoid the fact that the American campaign process is nothing more than a sleazy and corrupt system of legalized bribes, and that they cannot paint Obama as a villain without having to do so with nearly every person running for public office at any level above that of county assessor. There are politicians who aren't PACmen and corporate toadies, but they are few and far between.

And wouldn't it be nice to know that Goldman Sachs would get a fair trial, without having to worry about whether the politicians influencing the criminal proceedings were “honest” by the sardonic standards of Mark Twain?

Support Clean Campaign Reform. If we don't get entities like Goldman-Sachs out of the political process, they will eat us alive, and not even bother to burp afterward.

Posted: April 26, 2010

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