Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just published this at FoxForum on the Fox News website:

The Devil Is In the Details: Another Obama Connection You Ought to Know About

Could Lucifer play a role in this presidential election? It may sound crazy, but one of the candidates in this race has publicly praised, even emulated, a writer-activist who himself paid tribute to Lucifer. That’s right, Lucifer, also known as the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub—you get the idea.

Do you think that admiring a Lucifer-admirer would make a difference to some voters?

If you’ve never heard of this true fact—and most Americans obviously haven’t—well, that might help to explain why John McCain is behind in the polls.

OK, you might be asking, where is this Lucifer stuff coming from? It comes from a man named Saul Alinsky, who devoted his life to left-wing agitation in Chicago. He also wrote two seminal books, “Reveille for Radicals” and “Rules for Radicals,” still regarded as key how-to manuals for left-wing activists.

But Alinsky was more than just a leftist; he was a genuine out-there crazy, someone who loved to shock and stun, just for the helluvit. And so in the first edition of “Rules for Radicals,” published in 1971, he offered this astounding dedication: “Lest we forget at least an over the shoulder acknowledgement of the very first radical, from all our legends, mythology, and history … the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.”

This dedication is no secret. David Freddoso wrote about it in his book, The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media’s Favorite Candidate; and the inimitable Ann Coulter noted it, too, just last month.

And the connection between Alinsky and Barack Obama—and Alinsky and the left in general—is real enough. As John Fund, author of a newly revised book, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, observes, Alinsky, who died in 1972, was a sort of godfather to all the activist groups that emerged in the 60s and 70s, the most famous (or, if you prefer, notorious) of which today is ACORN.

Fund notes that young Hillary Rodham was such a fan of Alinsky that she traveled to Chicago, four times, to interview him for an adulatory school thesis she was writing. And Obama is an on-the-record fan too: Fund quotes The Washington Post’s Peter Slevin, writing in 2007, “Obama embraced many of Alinsky’s tactics and recently said his years as an organizer gave him the best education of his life.” Slevin further noted that Obama’s and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “common connection to Alinsky is one of the striking aspects of their biographies.”

OK, so the Alinsky-Obama connection is real. But the full truth about Alinsky, and whom he admired, is so wacky, or so horrible, that even the media have been reluctant to get into the story. And so it has received relatively little play. Oh sure, if John McCain had expressed admiration for a Lucifer admirer, that would have been news, but as we all know, there’s a media double standard on such things. That media bias is lamentable, of course, but for a Republican, it’s part of the strategic landscape—one more roadblock to factor into any GOP victory strategy.

Speaking of McCain, he would seem to have the greatest interest in taking Obama down a peg—or, according to the latest calculation from RealClearPolitics, about seven points in the polls. So why hasn’t he highlighted the Alinsky-Lucifer connection? Why hasn’t the McCain-Palin ticket raised this issue, knowing full well that if the candidates say it, reporters have to cover it? Good questions. Did I mention that the Republican nominee is down seven points?

In debate and argumentation, there’s a concept called the “rule of three”—that is, if you can come up with three examples to support your argument, you’ve got a pretty good argument. And so, for example, if one were to make the argument that Obama has strange radical associations, one could bring up Bill Ayers. And check, the McCain campaign has done that. And of course, there’s Reverend Wright, who McCain has stayed away from. So no check there. And no check, of course, for Alinsky-Lucifer. So McCain is left with the “rule of one,” which isn’t much of a rule. If McCain won’t bring up Wright, I guess it’s no surprise that he’s not bringing up Alinsky-Lucifer, assuming his campaign even knows about it.

The point of the “rule of three” is to make a sustained argument, to paint a comprehensive picture, to build an overall narrative—so that nobody can say that any one “hit” is just a cheap shot. That’s what happened to McCain with Ayers; the Obamans, and their allies in the media, said that it was just a “one off,” the sort of incidental association that happens in the course of a public career. And McCain had no good comeback, no additional opposition-research arrows to pull from his quiver.

So the Obama-Alinsky-Lucifer connection is left to float around in the vast soup of the Internet—plenty of mentions, here and there, but no real impact.

But had McCain really gone after Ayers AND Wright AND Alinsky-Lucifer, all at once, he would have had a strong argument that Obama was, and is, well out of the mainstream. And then all the information about Tony Rezko, Emil Jones, and the scandal-ridden Daley machine, would be all the more compelling to reporters and voters, because, as they would have to admit, a “pattern has emerged.”

And, for that matter, let’s talk about the great state of Illinois, where three governors in the last 40 years—Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, and George Ryan—ended up not only convicted, but imprisoned. And a fourth, incumbent Rod Blagojevich, may also end up in the clink. That’s quite a streak of corruption. And what does Obama have to say about any of that? And what did he know, and when did he know it?

If the McCain campaign had been on its game, its opposition researchers would have gone through every single day of Obama’s life since he first set foot in Chicago in 1987. Everyone he met, everything he did. And then, having amassed all that information, the McCainiacs would have made the rest of us know about it—in a sustained, organized, and unrelenting volley.

That’s how you win a presidential campaign, even amidst hard times for your party.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Yes, it is a Wall Street bailout—a bailout for Wall Street, first and foremost. But don’t take my word for it. Trust the hometown newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, to provide the scoop. According to one informed estimate, the same Wall Streeters who got us into this mess could make another $100 billion for their help in “cleaning it up.”

The role of lobbyists, descending on the $700 billion—oops, make that $850 billion, including additional earmarks—bailout bonanza has been much reported on. Sample headline in The Hill newspaper: “With bailout passed, lobbyists look to get in the game.” The paper quotes Rich Gold, head of Holland and Knight’s government relations and regulatory practice, declaring, “This is going to be a big trend, in all honesty, for the next three to five years.” And outside-the-beltway birds of prey, too, are circling overhead, including Rudy Giuliani. The likes of Gold and Giuliani might look forward to making millions. But the real money, denominated in billions, is to be found back on Wall Street.

Let’s get right to the Journal: an article by Deborah Solomon and Aaron Luccheti in Tuesday’s edition. Here’s the lede: “The Treasury Department, seeking to jump-start its $700 billion rescue, is giving financial institutions two days to submit proposals to work as asset managers for the program. Treasury's request for proposals makes clear that it wants large, established firms with significant assets to work for the government's program to buy mortgage-backed securities and other distressed assets.” [emphasis added, all bolds to follow are mine]

In other words, the big get bigger. The Journal continues: “To qualify, institutions must already manage at least $100 billion. Firms that want to manage whole loans, such as residential and commercial mortgages, must already oversee at least $25 billion in such loans or prove that they have capacity to handle that much…. Market observers say there are just a handful of firms that could handle such a large portfolio of assets.”

So this is not for the little guy. And the big guys will apply. The Journal explains: “Since plans for the bailout plan were announced, a range of firms—from large investment banks to boutique real-estate companies—have been angling to grab some of the advisory business. Many are hungry for this work because their sales, financing and other traditional forms of real-estate business have dried up with the credit crisis.” Translated, this means that Wall Street firms, having destroyed their own nest, are now looking to Uncle Sam to re-feather it for them.

Some of the big companies mentioned by the Journal include Pimco, Blackrock, Legg Mason, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley. “There are so many people who need something to do,” says John Douglas, former general counsel of the Resolution Trust Corporation (an earlier government bailout outfit, which disposed of $394 billion from 1989 to 1995), who is now a partner at the law firm of Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker.

The Journal provides a look ahead into the new enterprise, now being sketched out behind closed doors in Washington and New York: “The asset managers will have significant power… the institutions are expected to assist Treasury in determining which assets to buy, when to buy them and whether to sell or hold them.”

Mallory Factor, a businessman in Charleston, S.C. with a background in New York finance, estimates that costs, fees, and expenses—to myriad advisers, lawyers, consultants, rating agencies, as well as money managers—associated with the bailout could total as much as one percent a year. One percent of $700 billion is $7 billion; if we multiply that over five years, that’s $35 billion. “But I think this will go higher than $700 billion, to easily more than a trillion,” Factor told me. “And the cleanup process could last a decade.” If so, then fees for Wall Streeters could easily hit $100 billion.

But that’s not all. As the Journal further explains, “One of Treasury's biggest hurdles will be handling conflicts of interest that are likely to arise. Companies that qualify for Treasury's program are likely to have a financial stake in the very assets they will be charged with buying and selling.”

That’s known as a conflict of interest, and oftentimes, folks who violate their fiduciary responsibility end up paying a fine, or even going to jail. But not anymore. In this Paulson-ized new world, it is understood that conflicts of interest come with the territory. As the Journal puts it, “Treasury doesn't expect to eliminate all conflicts of interest, but is hoping to minimize them, according to a person familiar with the matter.” Got that? The Department of Treasury will do everything it can to “minimize” conflicts of interest.

So now we know. Lobbyists and fixers will make millions, and Wall Streeters, even those with unclean hands, will make billions. We are looking at a bull market in morally hazardous profiteering. It’ll be a great time to be a muckraker, too—but the Wall Streeters, having written the rules that require them only to “minimize” their conflicts of interest, will just shrug off the criticism.

Once again, they will go laughing all the way to the bank. But of course, they’ve been there before.