Yesterday I wrote that what I thought really tanked Daschle’s appointment was the revelation that he had lobbied advocated on behalf of his friend, Leo Hindery, for a job as Secretary of Commerce. As it turns out, Hindery seems like a pretty solid guy, and definitely more amicable to the interests of the administration, than say, I don’t know, a Republican who voted to abolish the Department he’s now going to run and who plans on obstructing the stimulus bill.
So who is Hindery? In short, he’s a progressive rich guy. He made hundreds of million in telecommunications, then founded a sports network, then ran a public equity firm. In recent years, he’s become a rare creature in progressive politics: A very rich, very vocal, labor-liberal. He was a senior economic policy adviser to John Edwards and, when he endorsed Barack Obama, he said he was doing so because Barack Obama “believes in all workers having an easy and unrestricted ability to join a union, including part-time and contract workers…in fairer and more progressive individual income taxation…[because] at the core of his Campaign and its economic policies are his abiding commitments to working men and women and to economic fairness.” This is not the sort of rhetoric you tend to hear from wildly successful corporate executives. But it’s the sort of rhetoric you wish you heard from wildly successful corporate executives. More to the point, it’s surely not the sort of rhetoric you’re going to hear from Secretary Gregg. Frankly, on this one, Daschle was right.
As I was arguing to a friend earlier in the day, Obama really screwed the pooch on this one. After all the rhetoric about curbing the influence of lobbyists, special interest groups, and good ‘ole fashion Washington corruption, Obama made it far more difficult for anyone with actual experience — which often is accompanied by speaking engagements, perks, etc. — to seek confirmation. I understand railing against lobbyists and corruption taps into a powerful popular sentiment, but it’s simply impractical in terms of actual governance (as Obama has discovered).