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I generally don’t trust my own reaction to political developments because my own views are too eclectic and non-representative to serve as any type of political weather vane. But I had dinner over the weekend with a group of friends and was surprised at the depth of their disappointment with the Obama administration’s key staff picks. This was a group of liberals, but well within the margins of mainstream opinion and almost all had enthusiastically supported Obama’s presidential bid.
You’d expect a general hostility towards Obama’s top economic appointments, like Larry Summers and Tim “I forgot to pay my taxes” Geithner, who are so closely tied to old failed policies. But then there was the environmental activist who was appalled by the choice of Ken Salazar at the Interior Department, and the education advocate who was furious that Linda Darling Hammond had been shut out at the Education Department, and the labor activist who described Jared Bernstein, named Chief Economic Policy Adviser to Joe Biden, as “our only lifeline.” (To which the education advocate replied, “We don’t have a lifeline.”)
Most of the people at the table didn’t believe that Obama and his team were making terrible picks, but they viewed many of his appointees as safe, non-controversial cronies who aren’t likely to bring any passion to the job.
So then I opened up my newspaper today and saw that Julianna Smoot has apparently been named Chief of Staff in the office of the US Trade Representative. Who is Julianna Smoot? Well, she’s known as the “700 million Dollar Woman” because she was a fundraising “bundler” who brought in so much money for Obama. (Note that the story I linked to here refers to her as the “$75 million woman,” but it was 2007 story and Smoot was just picking up steam.)
And here’s an excerpt from Smith Alumnae Quarterly, which has a few more details.
Working as a fundraiser for Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle laid the groundwork for Smoot to raise record sums of money for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), during the 2006 election cycle when the Democrats gained control of the Senate. “Julianna is at the top of her profession,” says political analyst Cutter. “The secret to Julianna is you don’t realize she’s asking until you’ve already given your money.”
Great, but what’s that got to do with trade policy?
The labor activist I mentioned was less enthusiastic, saying “She seems like a money person, not a trade person –not as bad as someone who is more knowledgeable and hostile, but it does seem odd that they aren’t looking for more trade expertise over there.”
More from Ken Silverstein:
Commentary — November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm
The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Amount by which a typical good-looking U.S. worker will out-earn a typical ugly one over a lifetime:
A Japanese inventor unveiled a new invisibility cloak that uses a material made of thousands of tiny beads called “retro-reflectum.”
A couple at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina, left their waitress a note telling her “the woman’s place is in the home,” in lieu of a tip.
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"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."