Wasting no time, President Obama began quickly overturning standing Bush executive orders in an effort to end nearly a decade of, what President Obama called on the campaign trail, “Bush cronyism.” Among his first moves were orders to freeze senior White House staffer’s pay and to toughen ethics and lobbying rules. As White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is fond of saying, Barack Obama has instituted the strictest ethics policy in the history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Unfortunately for those voters who took Obama at his word, “strict” has an increasingly loose definition for the Obama-campaign-staffer-turned-White-House-spokesmen and his boss.
Obama’s message of “transparency” and “reform,” it seems, was nothing more than focus-group tested campaign rhetoric, and his new executive orders are nothing more than a frustrating extension of the like.
The revolving-door of politics, the junior senator from Illinois frequently crowed, would end in his administration. Lobbyists, he added, "won't find a job in my White House." His bold opposition to Washington’s entrenched interests took Beltway-apathetic voters by storm, but now, as the difficult realities of elected office greet Obama in the Oval Office, the President has failed to truly deliver the clean break from the last 8 years.
In the two weeks since his inauguration, Obama has issued a staggering seventeen exceptions to his short-lived no-lobbyist dicta. Despite the campaign rhetoric and present hedging, President Obama and his Cabinet-level officials have surrounded themselves with corrupt lobbyists, all of whom are all too willing to sell short the promise of America.
What’s worse then President Obama’s recusal from adhering to his own policy? Congressional Republicans lack both the moral and ideological certitude to block the confirmation of Obama’s lobbyist appointments, or even voice concern over his near-two dozen executive-branch hires. Of course, their lack of conviction should come as no surprise, particularly so when they won’t object to his numerous tax cheat appointments either.
The president’s swift actions to undermine a two week-old ethics policy with a series of waivers and loopholes will not restore America’s confidence in Washington. This Administration’s present nuanced position on lobbyists is a direct result of then-Senator Obama’s over-promising.
Pouncing on the lobbyist issue in May of the general election, Obama said, “Lobbyists aren't just part of the system in Washington, they're part of the problem.” Indeed, lobbyists aren’t just part of the system in Washington: Lobbyists are a welcomed, institutionalized element to Obama’s White House.
American voters will soon awake to the sad reality that the candidate who offered the prospect of “change,” a new way of governing, and the ideal of post-partisanship, remains deeply rooted in the ways of the past.