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Monday, December 09, 2002

Afternoon Musings-Bryan Preston weighs in on l'affair Lott here. One problem I have with some of the conservative critiques of the critics of Lott is that N-bombs of prominent Democrats, including Robert Byrd's "white [t]igger" remarks, go unpunished on the left while a bad joke from Lott gets grilled. Here's an interesting question that I'm running through my mind-is a racial epitaph worse than the epitaph-free praise of an avowedly racist campaign? Is it worse for someone whose largely color-blind to drop a N-bomb than to lend support for bigots. I'm not suggesting that Lott be hounded out of the Senate-the people of Mississippi will have their chance in 2006 to give him another term. However, I don't think he served the Republican cause well prior to this and he has made himself a liability for his lack of judgement with C-SPAN cameras running. _____ Paul Musgrave has an interesting take on John Snow.
But what really disturbs me is his resume. This guy's like Tom White, George W., and Dick Cheney--he's got "access capitalism" written all over him. He left DoT to work for CSX--and he walked in as a VP. In Japan, they call this the "descent from heaven," when a senior ministry official goes to work for a company his ministry regulates. Can anyone say "conflict of interest?" Not in this White House, apparently. Paul Krugman's been hitting on this subject off and on for a while, but because it's only one lone Democrat saying this, I think Republicans have been ignoring the office. You can't be the party of free markets if you continually hire people who only achieved success because of who they knew, not what they could do. When Indonesia did things like this, we called it crony capitalism. When we read about Chinese officials running corporations, we call it corruption. In five years, when we talk about the Bush White House, I'm afraid we'll call it Teapot Dome Redux.
This isn't a big revolving door. Bush was a businessman who went into politics later in life. Cheney ran Halliburton between stints in Republican administrations. Snow did a stint as a government official, then worked in the private sector for a quarter-century before returning. What should high-ranking members of the opposition party supposed to do until their party returns to power. Must they have jobs at colleges or think tanks while they await their return from exile or could they earn a living in the private sector? If you want someone with expertise in a field, you might just turn to someone who has worked in an area for a while. Yes, that means that a businessman might be biased towards businesses, but a liberal lobbyist/think-tanker might be biased in favor of his old bosses as well. You work towards avoiding conflict of interest, but you're not going to avoid biases; in fact, administrations might look for someone who's both an expert and agrees with their view of how things should be done. That last Teapot Dome spot was a cheap shot. If you remember your history, that involved a Navy official leasing Navy oil reserves at bargain prices to his cronies during the Harding administration in the early 1920s. We might have business people who favor business in general, but we've yet to see any direct cronyism anywhere near the Teapot Dome level; there were quite a few Enron alums in this administration, yet it was allowed to go under without any intervention. There isn't too much that Snow can do in the Treasury Department to aid CTX; if he were Transportation Secretary, he'd have to be watched like a hawk. I don't like his corporate pedigree much (I'd rather have more of a small-business advocate there) but don't assume he's corrupt because he a corporate guy.

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