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
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
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.
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
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.