Barack Obama: Taking money from 1 percenters compromised my politics

In last night's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton defended her enormous super PAC fundraising machine by saying, "President Obama had a Super PAC when he ran. President Obama took tens of millions of dollars from contributors. And President Obama was not at all influenced when he made the decision to pass and sign Dodd-Frank, the toughest regulations on Wall Street in many a year."

Perhaps she should have asked Barack Obama about that.

In his 2008 bestseller The Audacity of Hope, the president talked frankly about how the "money chase" compromised his politics, saying "a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population — that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve."

And perhaps as the next race approaches, a voice within tells you that you don’t want to have to go through all the misery of raising all that money in small increments all over again. You realize that you no longer have the cachet you did as the upstart, the fresh face; you haven’t changed Washington, and you’ve made a lot of people unhappy with difficult votes. The path of least resistance — of fund-raisers organized by the special interests, the corporate PACs, and the top lobbying shops — starts to look awfully tempting, and if the opinions of these insiders don’t quite jibe with those you once held, you learn to rationalize the changes as a matter of realism, of compromise, of learning the ropes. The problems of ordinary people, the voices of the Rust Belt town or the dwindling heartland, become a distant echo rather than a palpable reality, abstractions to be managed rather than battles to be fought.

"Barack Obama Never Said Money Wasn’t Corrupting; In Fact, He Said the Opposite" [Jon Schwarz/The Intercept]

Notable Replies

  1. Funnily enough, on Hillary Clinton's own website:

    “We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system, and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans. Our democracy should be about expanding the franchise, not charging an entrance fee.”

    Hillary, September 8, 2015

  2. for Bernie Sanders?

  3. This isn't even really in serious question - taking money from private groups influences your politics. To say otherwise is like denying climate change. That she's trying to pretend otherwise is evidence of her already being critically influenced. That influence is why Dodd-Frank wasn't better. Why we still have problems with the investor class.

    That her website seems to disagree with her on this is evidence of some cognitive dissonance that hasn't quite struck home yet, and part of her overall credibility problem. It's also evidence that she's had to at least try and respond to Sanders's message, which is him doing his job as far as I'm concerned. Bernie's campaign should hold her feet to the fire, here, as much as they are able: which is it? Do we need to get the corrupting effects of money out of politics, and so you shouldn't be taking this Super PAC money, or do you think that money HAS no corrupting effects in politics and are thus quite simply dangerously wrong on the facts? Because it can't be both, and she's trying to say it is one thing or the other depending, I guess, upon how desperately she needs the money? It's clear where Sanders stands on this.

    One of Hillary's YUUUGE flaws is her credibility, her trustworthiness, the tendency for her mouth to flap out whatever her audience wants to hear. That lack of authenticity marks her as a political operative first and foremost. The decision of the states left to vote in the Democratic primary is: is that the candidate we want to send to face Trump?

  4. The problems of ordinary people, the voices of the Rust Belt town or the dwindling heartland, become a distant echo rather than a palpable reality, abstractions to be managed rather than battles to be fought.

    Obama's basic personality doesn't seem like that of a "fighter" in the first place. He seems instead laid back, and more interested in compromise and getting along, than in fighting.

    His comment about how ordinary people's problems become "abstractions" reminds me of his description to Mark Maron of what it's like to be president (after agreeing, for shit's sake, to Maron's description of the job as being like "middle management"). Obama said it's like being at the helm of a ship; you can only steer it so much in the short time that you're the helm. Some "fighter."

    Hillary seems like more of a fighter, but not for the ordinary people Obama says he regrets having so little contact with. She's fighting for the presidency, and she seems to be doing it for herself. For power, and even more money.

    Sanders, well, he's different, right? He's a fighter, and he's not in it for personal gain. He cares about us, and it's much harder to imagine him losing that concern, and his connnections with us, while working as president. As for being compromised by taking big money, he's already shown that he's centrally, directly against that -- that rejection is most of what he's all about.

  5. I like the Samurai version too.

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