MARCH 5, 2013
The fire sale at the White House
BY WES PRUDEN
Bubba was a piker. The Clinton White House sold sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom that were cheap at the price. Barack Obama is auctioning off access to His Grandiosity for really big bucks. Unlike Hillary, Michelle doesn’t even have to straighten up the room and make up the bed when the guests leave.
The White House reacted with considerable heat Monday to editorials in the New York Times and the Washington Post scolding the president for putting “major campaign donors” on an “advisory board” and giving them frequent “access” to the president. This little perk was said to be going for a half-million dollars.
“Any notion that there is a set price for a meeting with the president of the United States is just wrong,” Jay Carney, the president’s mouthpiece, told reporters at the White House.
The wording of Mr. Carney’s remarks, which are usually carefully measured to make sure the spokesman’s brain is engaged before his mouth moves, raises speculation that the price of the access is set on a sliding scale. This could pose problems for the president and his men. If the CEO of Ajax Widgets LLC pays $500,000 for a cup of coffee and a breakfast bagel with the president, he won’t be pleased to learn that the CEO of Acme Anvils, Inc., got the president’s ear for $475,000, and maybe got two bagels and a strawberry shmear on the side.
The Washington Post, in its editorial, decried the sale of access as “behavior that has become all too common in this town and carries more than a whiff of influence-peddling.” The New York Times detected more than a whiff, of something like genuine stink. An advisory board, the newspaper said, “is nothing more than a fancy way of setting a price for access to Mr. Obama.”
This contretemps, so far the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand, is nevertheless enough to shake the president’s supreme self-confidence, rattle the White House dishes and make the floor tremble beneath Mr. Obama’s feet. This scolding comes not from right-wing websites, but from two of the most prominent pillars of the cult. Prominent pillars are not supposed to behave like that. On what other meat might an awakening media feed?
This followed Bob Woodward’s falling out of love with Mr. Obama, partly over the president playing games with the sequestration but mostly over the president’s failure to deploy the carrier USS Harry S. Truman. Mortuary Bob, who burnished his considerable reputation with his famous interviews with the dead and the comatose, tried to make it up to the president at the end of the week with an invitation to the Obamas to dine at the Woodward manse.
Taken all in all, these are not particularly happy days for His Grandiosity. After weeks of crying wolf, the White House retreated Sunday from the president’s fervent predictions that the world as we know it would end at midnight March 1, when the sequestration cuts would take effect. The sky remained resolutely overhead, though in some places there were deep gray clouds and in some places rain, but not the sky, fell.
The track record of the doom-criers, even the president, is not good. Geezers remember when were told that airplanes would fall from the sky, everybody’s bank account would be erased, and restaurants would decline to honor dinner reservations after the beginning of the new millennium because all the computers were programmed to die at midnight on Dec. 31, 1999. Even the ancient Mayans got into the act when someone thought they remembered that their calendar predicted death, destruction and other inconvenience for the modern age. Only yesterday, everyone was about to fall off the fiscal cliff. The sequestration rescued us.
“We lost the bet on just how intransigent the Republican majority can be,” a Virginia Democrat told Politico. “We made a mistake betting on reasonable compromise ultimately prevailing. We bet on that and lost.” The president bet he could come up with the idea of sequestration and when it actually happened nobody would remember that he was the elusive daddy.
The president and his partisans in Congress were high on a champagne buzz a month ago when they thought the Republicans, dazed by the election results, had been permanently scared into raising taxes whenever the president felt a whim coming on. Mr. Obama imagined that he could cry wolf twice a day and get a new tax increase each time. The “shock” of sequestration has given the Republicans a booster shot of testosterone. And just in time, too.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.