Michelle Malkin's number one New York Times bestseller, "Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies," has been re-released for 2010 in paperback and completely updated. In the book, Malkin critiques the Obama administration, argues that the president lacks the will to change Washington politics and says what she believes that will mean for America.
Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "Good Morning America" Library to find more good reads.
2010 THE ANTI-CORRUPTION REFERENDUM
Can I say "I told you so" now? In July 2009, when Culture of Corruption was first released, liberal critics scoffed: How could you possibly write a 400-page book about Barack Obama's rotten administration when he's only been in office six months?!
When I proceeded to rattle off case after case of Chicago-style back-scratching, transparency-trampling, and crooked special interest-dealing in the new White House, liberal critics such as The View's Joy Behar interjected:
B-b-b-but what about Bush? Why don't you write a book about Bush? Wha-'bout-Bush? Wha-'bout-Bush? Wha-'bout-Bush?
When I pointed out that I had reported extensively on cronyism in the Bush era (see Harriett Miers, FEMA, and the Department of Homeland Security), and when I further pointed out that while the Bush-bashing market overfloweth, there remained a massive vacuum of critical analysis of Obama, liberal critics sputtered:
So what? Doesn't every administration have corruption?
When I patiently explained that no other administration in modern American history has set itself up as loftily as the Hope and Change reformers had done, or when I cited endless examples of Obama's broken promises on everything from lobbyists to transparency to Washington business-as-usual, liberal critics changed the subject again.
Potty-mouthed Leftist comedian Bill Maher mocked the cover of the book ("Ooh, look, Obama f**ked up the flag") and griped that I wouldn't go on his cable TV show. Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show played beat the clock, stalling with questions about President Obama's infamous Beer Summit and the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor before objecting to my characterization of First Lady Michelle Obama as the "First Crony." (I got the last word. He answered with a smirk.)
While media groupies continued to churn out glowing West Wing profiles and East Wing fashion updates in exchange for coveted access and exclusive scoops for their books (a journalistic pay-for-play practice decried aptly by one lone Washington Monthly blogger as "Communications Corruption"), non-brainwashed news consumers sought the truth. Thanks to hundreds of thousands of readers thirsting for unvarnished information about Team Obama, Culture of Corruption spent six weeks at Number One on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list. The Times did its best to ignore the book and other political dissident best-sellers that have dominated their hallowed lists over the past year. No review, of course. Instead, New York Times book critic Dwight Garner argued in a piece last summer extolling an obscure biography of Communist Manifesto co-author Friedrich Engels that "Karl Marx" was "back in vogue."
Back on Planet Earth, voters' remorse spread like necrosis across the body politic. By the end of 2009, pollster Frank Luntz observed, Obama had suffered the "the greatest fall in approval of any elected president since [the Gallup poll] started ongoing tracking during the Eisenhower administration. Obama came into office with the approval of two out of every three voters (67 percent) but ended his first year with just half the electorate (50 percent) offering a positive evaluation of his performance." By mid-April 2010, President Obama's approval rating had hit an all-time low -- dropping to 46 percent. Half the Americans polled by Gallup in the spring of 2010 said Obama did not deserve a second term. Even Amber Lee Ettinger, the hot, young YouTube star known as "Obama Girl" who famously declared her "crush" on Candidate O, confessed that she had fallen out of love: "He did create some jobs, but most of them were government jobs and that doesn't really help the middle class."
Democratic candidates in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts learned the hard way that more Obama would not translate into more public confidence or votes. Demonstrating the curse of the reverse Midas Touch, Obama campaigned in person for Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, and Martha Coakley -- only to watch them come crashing down respectively in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, the Virginia gubernatorial race, and the special election in the Bay State to replace the people's seat held imperially by the late Teddy Kennedy. Democratic congressional candidates ran for the nearest exit to the tune of The Police hit, "Don't Stand So Close to Me." Asked whether he wanted the president campaigning for him in California's Central Valley, Democrat Congressman Jim Costa told the newspaper: "I'm more popular in my district than the president."
At Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, the Obama souvenir shop closed after barely a year in business. Overseas, amid public disillusionment with America's former global political rock star, Indonesian officials removed "Little Barry" -- a bronze statue of young Obama to celebrate his childhood years there. "Obama is a very good man, he's a good dreamer," an Indonesian activist who led an Internet campaign against the statue told The Associated Press. "But he has no contribution for Indonesia."
Obama's signature contribution here at home, of course, has been the Chicago-ization of the Potomac. The themes of Culture of Corruption have been echoed countless times since publication by lawmakers, business owners, political dissidents, and independent watchdogs who have run directly into the Team Obama buzzsaw. Just a few weeks after the book was released, GOP Congressman Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, blew the whistle on the administration's "Chicago-style politics" in manhandling Republican critics of the trillion-dollar stimulus law. Politico had reported that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was spearheading a "coordinated effort to jam" Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Republican, Arizona) for calling on the government to cancel the rest of the stimulus program and return the money to taxpayers:
No fewer than four Cabinet secretaries wrote to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer -- also a Republican -- to ask her if she agreed with Kyl that it was time to turn off the state's stimulus spigot.
"If you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to your state, as Sen. Kyl suggests, please let me know," wrote Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. For good measure, he attached a three-page addendum listing each of the Arizona projects paid for by the $521 million the state is getting.
Brewer knew she'd been thrown a high, hard one.
"The governor is hopeful that these federal Cabinet officials are not threatening to deny Arizona citizens the portion of federal stimulus funds to which they are entitled," her spokesman said in a statement. "She believes that would be a tremendous mistake by the administration. And the governor is grateful for the strong leadership and representation that Arizonans enjoy in the United States Senate."
In addition to Chicago crony Transportation Secretary LaHood, Emanuel enlisted Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to write similar nasty-grams all sent out on the day after Senator Kyl criticized the failed stimulus law. Obama's goons at the Democratic National Committee touted the intimidation campaign to put other Republicans on notice: Speak ill of the stimulus and you will pay.
Congressman Issa, for one, refused to play. "At what point do you believe your practice of Chicago-style politics violates a public official's right to speak out in favor of alternative policies," he asked in a letter to Emanuel. "I can assure you that any attempt to intimidate me or silence my criticism of the stimulus through such Chicago-style tactics will be futile." Business leaders raised their voices, too. Glenn Hamer, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, blasted the vendetta in an open letter to the White House titled: "Mr. President: Don't bully Arizona." It was one thing to "joust with [Senator] Kyl over his position," Hamer wrote, "but it is an entirely different matter for cabinet secretaries to write letters to the chief executive of a state and threaten funding if support isn't provided. Once a law is passed, it needs to be fairly and impartially administered."
But fairness and impartiality are not part of the Chicago political vocabulary.
The administration strong-armed Chrysler creditors and strong-armed Chrysler dealers using politicized tactics that united both House Democrats and Republicans, who passed a congressional amendment reversing President Obama on the closure of nearly 800 Chrysler car dealerships and more than 2,000 GMdealerships.On Detroit-based Frank Beckmann's WJR morning talk show, bankruptcy lawyer Tom Lauria blew the whistle on the administration's heavy-handed threats against bondholder firms that objected to the United Auto Worker giveaway structured into the automakers' bankruptcy deal: "One of my clients was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under threat that the full force of the White House press corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight. That's how hard it is to stand on this side of the fence," Lauria decried.
Lauria had represented Perella Weinberg, which owned Chrysler debt and had initially balked at the Obama deal forking over 33 cents on the dollar for their secured debts while giving the United Auto Workers retirees about 50 cents on the dollar for their unsecured debts. As Washington Examiner columnist Michael Barone explained, "This of course is a violation of one of the basic principles of bankruptcy law, which is that secured creditors -- those who [lent] money only on the contractual promise that if the debt was unpaid they'd get specific property back -- get paid off in full before unsecured creditors get anything."
The White House denied Lauria's charges of bullying. "The charge is completely untrue, "White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton told ABC News, "and there's obviously no evidence to suggest that this happened in any way." Yes, we've seen this pattern before. Perella Weinberg also denied the charges, dutifully fired Lauria, and suddenly changed its mind about the deal and withdrew its objections. Funny how that works.
Elsewhere in the Cabinet, White House senior adviser and Chicago knuckle-cracker David Axelrod, along with National Economic Council adviser Larry Summers, harangued financial industry executives in the spring of 2010 to stop running ads against the Democrats' financial-regulatory bill. Bloomberg News reported on a muscle-flexing meeting between the White House and banking CEOs, who raised "concern over the administration's criticism of the industry's efforts to influence the bill, according to one participant. Summers responded by calling on the industry to cease running ads against the bill and to stop its lobbyists from trying to insert loopholes in the legislation, the person said." Business as usual? Veteran political observer Michael Barone didn't think so: "The White House officials are making clear the character of the new regime they're trying to impose. We're doing you favors, so shut up and take whatever medicine we prescribe without protest."
Put another way: It's political free speech and participation in the legislative process for all -- except when subject to approval by Obama overlords.
Minnesota GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, borrowing a phrase from Barone called Obama's speech-squelching racket exactly what it was: "Gangster government." For this, she was chastised by former president Bill Clinton, who likened Bachmann and the limited-government activists of the Tea Party movement to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Rebuking Bachmann's "hatred and "paranoia," Clinton defended his friends in the White House and ruling majority. "They are not gangsters," Clinton told the New York Times before the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party protests. "They were elected. They are not doing anything they were not elected to do."
Some elected officials might beg to differ. And not just ones with an "R" by their names. In February 2010, Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania admitted to veteran Philly newsman Larry Kane that Team Obama had dangled a "high-ranking" position in the administration if he dropped out of the Senate race and left incumbent Republican-turned Democrat Senator Arlen Specter alone. Kane reported on the exchange and the White House wall of silence he encountered:
It was just something I'd been hearing about from a variety of sources. Was it true? I didn't know, but I decided to pop the question. During the taping of my Comcast Network Voice of Reason show, which airs Sunday night at 9:30, I asked Congressman Joe Sestak: "Is it true that you were offered a high ranking job in the administration in a bid to get you to drop out of the primary against Arlen Specter?" Sestak looked a little surprised by the question. He said, "Yes." I asked him if the job was Navy Secretary. He said, "I can't comment on that." In the next few seconds, he admitted that it was a "high up" job, that it came from the White House, and that he didn't accept the offering. He proceeded to say that nothing will stop him from completing the race against Specter for the Democratic nomination. Was I surprised? A little. After all, I was just probing. Two hours later, I called the White House press office. I played the tape, and asked for a reaction. They never called back. That didn't surprise me. If it did happen, and if they did try to get Sestak out of the race, how could they deny it?
The "mainstream" press ignored the story for weeks. When White House press spokesman Robert Gibbs addressed the controversy on March 16, 2010, the strategy was clear: Dodge, baby, dodge. After first denying any contact with Sestak took place, Gibbs changed course and admitted a conversation had occurred. Then he urged the reporters to move on. From the White House press briefing transcript:
Question: Robert, perhaps a sore point, but Congressman Darrell Issa has accused you, Robert Gibbs, of being part of a cover-up because you will not say whether the White House offered Joe Sestak a job for not running against Arlen Specter. Guilty or not guilty? Mr. Gibbs: Look, I've talked to several people in the White House; I've talked to people that have talked to others in the White House. I'm told that whatever conversations have been had are not problematic. I think Congressman Sestak has discussed that this is -- whatever happened is in the past, and he's focused on his primary election.
No doubt Gibbs had been well-advised by the lawyers at the White House to choose his words carefully about the ethically and legally suspect deal. Unlike Gibbs, the U.S. code governing bribery, graft, and conflicts of interest is straightforward: "Whoever solicits or receives . . . any. . . thing of value, in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining for any person any appointive office or place under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."
Amid calls from House Republicans for an investigation and special prosecutor, Congressman Sestak refused to give further details -- even as he pointed to the episode on the campaign trail to tout his independence. The Morning Call of Pennsylvania quoted Sestak mimicking the White House press shop-approved talking points: "Having been asked a question that no one had ever asked me before, I answered it honestly. . . .The politics of what happens after, I'm not interested in. There are other things we have to focus on." By late April 2010, the White House had failed to respond to inquiries from GOP Congressman Issa. And when confronted directly at a congressional hearing in May 2010 about the bribery allegations, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to budge. "If I offer you a job in the White House, let's say Secretary of the Navy, in return for you doing something, such as dropping out of elected office to clear a primary, is that a serious crime?" Congressman Issa pressed. "Is that a hypothetical crime?" Eric The Silent stonewalled: "I don't answer hypotheticals."
In May, Sestak beat the entrenched, Obama-endorsed Specter to win the Democratic Senate nomination. The Reverse Midas Touch struck again.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, the Denver Post reported that Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina "offered specific suggestions" for an Obama administration job to far Left Democrat Andrew Romanoff if he withdrew his challenge to White House-backed incumbent Democrat Senator Michael Bennet. The paper provided a refreshingly candid assessment of Team Obama's mob-like "suggestions" in the larger context of the administration's no-holds-barred politics. Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's deputy chief of staff and a "storied fixer in the White House political shop," according to the Post, "suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions. After Romanoff rejected the deal, Obama formally endorsed his rival, Senator Bennett.
It is the kind of hardball tactics that have come to mark the White House's willingness to shape key races across the country, in this case trying to remove a threat to a vulnerable senator by presenting his opponent a choice of silver or lead. Along with other prominent examples -- including an effort to stop New York Gov. David Paterson from seeking re-election -- the administration's tactics in the Colorado Senate primary show that Obama is willing to act as pointedly as his Oval Office predecessor, whose political chief, Karl Rove, was famous for the assertive application of White House power to extend the reach of his party.
Messina the Fixer's immediate boss is none other than Rahm Emanuel. Mimicking Congressman Sestak, Romanoff decided to zip his lips and focus on "representing the people of Colorado in the United States Senate." Far more preferable than focusing on the Obama goon squad's shadow looming over his election bid or on the criminal implications.