a) Always trust content from kausfiles!
b) Obama's response suggests these were "completely above board transactions," which is a little different from saying they were "arms-length" or "market-rate" transactions. Why would Johnson avail himself of Mozilo's "friends of Angelo" program unless he got some kind of special deal, better than the deal Joe Citizen would get? (And if it's so difficult to tell "the factors that went into these arrangements," as the Obama camp contends, then how "above board" were they?)
c) Johnson headed Fannie Mae. If Fannie Mae was really "the biggest buyer of Countrywide's mortgages," should Johnson really have gotten enmeshed as a consumer with Countrywide, particularly if it was hard to tell if he was getting a special deal or not?
d) I don't know if Mozilo is a benevolent genius or evil. I saw him at a conference once and he's clearly an impressive person. But it's also quite clear that Obama has made him a symbol of the subprime mess, as McCain has noted. Update: As the RNC has been pointing out, Obama's campaign previously attacked Hillary strategist Mark Penn because he did some P.R. work for Countrywide--and attacked Hillary's campaign because it took contributions from representatives of Countrywide. ** (Now-embarrassing self-righteous David Plouffe quote below.)
e) Johnson was an atrocious, tin-eared choice on many other grounds. He's a symbol of old Democratic elites--the Mondale Restoration!--and of Beltway business as usual. He's gotten obscenely rich off of public service while pursuing a failed liberal antipoverty theory (community develpment) and taking credit for spreading around other peoples money. He failed to catch Geraldine Ferraro's problems before they blew up on Mondale. He helped lead Fannie Mae into a multi-billion dollar debacle (even though he let his successor catch most of the blame). He said Mozilo's firm had "done a brilliant job of insulating itself for the down cycle" shortly before Mozilo's firm was clobbered in the down cycle, eventually selling itself to Bank of America for about a tenth of it's former value, according to the Sun.
Why would Obama, in his first big personnel decision, choose a paleoliberal greedhead with a track record of failure? You tell me! He's described Johnson as "a friend." It looks as if he was at best highly susceptible to amicable overtures from someone he about whom he should have retained some critical perspective.
f) Is Obama really going to let this story drag out all week? Are Johnson's allies so powerful he must be protected--the way Rev. Wright was protected, for a time? Why not say "This is not the Jim Johnson I know" and throw him overboard? Remember the Parable of the Band-Aid. ...
"Obama aides also said Clinton is in no position to stiffen oversight after taking contributions from mortgage industry lobbyists, including funds from representatives of Countrywide, which has been at the center of the mortgage meltdown. 'If we're really going to crack down on the practices that caused the credit and housing crises, we're going to need a leader who doesn't owe these industries any favors,' campaign manager David Plouffe said." [E.A.]
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Rewards are nice, but recognition is better. So if I'm one of Starbucks's best customers, I want to have elite status, as I do on American Airlines. I want shorter lines, better freebies, special seating (Aeron chairs, preferably) and electrical outlets reserved just for me and my laptop. [E.A.]
A creep, no? It's one thing for Starbucks to give Lieber free wi-fi and discounts. It's another to reward him by undermining the essentially egalitarian experience that's part of the appeal of a good American "third place." ...
P.S.--The Welfare State Angle: Lieber's elision of consumerism and snobbery is similar to the mistake doctrinaire Democrats make when they defend universal Social Security receipt as an egalitarian institution just like universal health care. It isn't--because getting health care is an actual communal experience (going to doctors, chatting in their waiting rooms, complaining in their waiting rooms, etc.) while getting Social Security checks is just ... getting checks. It's only money. A little more money for well-off Social Security recipients isn't going to bolster solidarity with the working poor any more than a little discount for Lieber is going to destroy the vibe at his local Starbucks. Letting him flounce around in his Aeron in the roped-off Starbucks Select VIP section, on the other hand . ... well, things could get ugly! ...
"I'm glad to report that Starbucks is indeed considering some sort of elite status," says Lieber. Next: Skyboxes? ...