The Whore Factor / By Matt Taibbi

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The impostures get more blatant every day…

obamahillary

Obama and Clinton: Distinctions without significance.

December 2, 2008 3:33 PM

Photo: Watson/AFP/Getty

The choice of Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State is one of those mighty wind-generating news items that will keep pundits busy for days or even weeks; like a lot of campaign reporters, however, I’m suffering from Hillary fatigue after last year and find myself with absolutely no opinion at all about that head-scratching nomination.

The Barack-watching business has begun to take steps in a nervous direction for other reasons, however. Obviously the big question about Obama, after his election, was just exactly how much “change” he was going to bring about — would he bring in people who actually can do the job to work in his government, or would he hire the same old whores to man the ship? I know several reporters who are either officially or unofficially on “Whore Factor” duty, watching the rapidly kaleidoscoping transition picture and keeping track of the number of known whores and ghouls who for some reason have been invited to befoul the atmosphere of the next administration.

Obviously there has been some dire news on that front already. When Obama picked Tom Daschle to be the HHS Secretary, I nearly shit my pants. In Washington there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle. Tom Daschle would suck off a corpse for a cheeseburger. True, he is probably only the second-biggest whore for the health care industry in American politics — the biggest being doctor/cat-torturer Bill Frist, whose visit to South Dakota on behalf of John Thune in 2004 was one of the factors in ending Daschle’s tenure in the Senate.

But in picking Daschle — who as an adviser to the K Street law firm Alston and Bird has spent the last four years burning up the sheets with the nation’s fattest insurance and pharmaceutical interests — Obama is essentially announcing that he has no intention of seriously reforming the health care industry. And I know that lots of public policy people are hailing this pick, saying Daschle is perfect for the job (“His new leadership position confirms that the incoming Obama administration has made health care reform a top and early priority for action in 2009,” Ron Pollack, the director of Families USA, told reporters), but when they say that I think they mean the following: “Out of all the bought-off Washington whores who could have been given this job, Daschle is the best one. His fake reform will go the farthest in its approximation of actual action than the fake reform of any other possible whore-candidate.” Actually that probably sums up the ideological profile of Obama quite well generally — but that’s another story.

Regarding Daschle, remember, we’re talking about a guy who not only was a consultant for one of the top health-care law firms in the country, but a board member of the Mayo Clinic (a major recipient of NIH grants) and the husband of one of America’s biggest defense lobbyists — wife Linda Hall lobbies for Lockheed-Martin and Boeing. Does anyone really think that this person is going to come up with a health care proposal that in any way cuts into the profits of the major health care companies?

As for the other choices: I think we can take it as good news that progressives came down from their post-electoral high fast enough to scuttle the appointment of John J. Brennan for CIA director. The choice of Brennan, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center and aide to George Tenet, was opposed by numerous groups, including a number of psychologists who signed a letter to Obama criticizing Brennan for what they believed was his role in endorsing President Bush‚s pro-torture policies. Brennan was involved with Bush’s secret interrogation programs and once told a reporter that the abhorrent rendition practice was a “vital tool,” and the fact that Obama made such a person a key advisor to his campaign is strange and unsettling enough.

Even stranger, however, is the fact that Brennan used to head the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, or INSA, an independent nonprofit “research center” which is sort of like a chamber of commerce for intelligence contractors, although it claims it does not lobby. Tim Shorrock, a terrific reporter who has written a lot about the intelligence community, described the position of INSA chief as being like a “shadow intelligence director” and noted that prior to Brennan, current DNI Mike McConnell was chairman of INSA. What’s strange about this is that Obama would even think about picking a guy so close to the contracting community to run his intelligence operations. “Obama had been pretty critical of the whole contracting regime,” Shorrock told me. “So that was pretty odd.”

Anyway Brennan’s candidacy was essentially shot down by the criticism, as the poor guy eventually wrote a humorously bitter letter to Obama taking himself out of the running, blaming his critics for being a bunch of full-of-shit assholes who don’t know what they’re talking about. “It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration, such as the preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include waterboarding,” he whined.

This is the same guy who went on TV to defend the rendition program in a story about the case of Maher Arar, the Canadian telecommunications engineer who was abducted at JFK airport by the Brennan’s then-buddies at the Bush administration and sent to Syria for 10 months to live in a windowless three-by-six hole filled with rats and be beaten regularly with cables. When asked about this story, then-CBS analyst Brennan said that “I think [rendition] allows us to have the option to move a person who is involved with terrorism or terrorism-related activities to a country where they can be effectively questioned.”

The balls of this guy to be involved with that horrible shit and then turn around and whine about how “immaterial” the criticisms of him are — like we should feel sorry for him! I find people like this amazing.

I’ve been getting lots of calls about Obama’s other appointments; if you work in DC and know something about any of the new members of the government that hasn’t been reported to the press, please write to me, as I’m researching the appointment process for my next book. In the meantime I’m also dragging ass on about three different magazine assignments right now (I spent the Thanksgiving holiday flying back from Los Angeles, where I had been interviewing sports agent Scott Boras for an upcoming sports piece in Men’s Journal), so please forgive the scarcity of my posts.

Matt Taibbi likes to raise hell in the self-contained world of celebrity journalists. He does what few do: he often tells the truth. 

COMMENT (from original post)

truthynesslover | February 3, 2009 7:15 PM

who is the corpse?
Who would he be getting the hamburger from anyway?
Or are both our healthcare industy?

me | February 3, 2009 3:04 PM

nice work.

Saw The Times began to report some of Daschle’s Lobbying/Consulting practices. I’d like to think that Daschle w/d his nomination in part to developing scrutiny into his and his wife’s business practices.

Unfortunately, they all suck.

ddbb | February 3, 2009 11:47 AM

Very good post and great job bringing this issue to light.

However, I wish people would take notice of the fact that the more the government taxes and distributes, the more opportunity there is for the Daschles and Clintons (both) of the world to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense. As long as the government has your money to pass around, people will have their hands out to get their “fair share”. This should not be surprising.

The incentives to behave as a Daschle, Clinton, Rangel or whoever will never be overcome by lip service to “character.” Rather, it is these incentives that attract people who love to have the power to tell people what to do and to confiscate their money and which gives them opportunity to become very rich from their exercise of that power.

Limiting the size and scope of government is the only cure. If the incentives are in place, people will act accordingly no matter how much vetting takes place, assuming there is any.

JohnnyD | February 3, 2009 1:18 AM

I haven’t got to read all the other comments, but isn’t Obama still supporting the “rendition practice”? Isn’t that torture? Wasn’t it a torture practice that he denounced? He closed GITMO and he is still allowing RENDITION! What is this?

katiedee | February 3, 2009 12:01 AM

So the few days of Obama being in office and I thought he was doing a great job, until I read this article. How in the hell do you hire someone who says, “”It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration…” when they clearly agreed and took part in the process? That is like directly lying not only to a friend, but to the president. How dumb is that and how unintelligent of Obama who wants “change” to put him in office.
When it comes to Daschle who is apparently deeply involved with some of the major health care corporations and has been concerned with helping them out over the past few years, does Obama really expect there to be much change? This kind of reminds me of the saying the more things change the more they stay the same. Yay for the new head of the country claiming change when really the only thing that is changing are not the ideas, but the mouths they are coming out of.

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