Washington Babylon — January 26, 2009, 9:55 am

Bundling The Administration

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.”

Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



October 2015

Cattle Calls

Getting Jobbed

Lives by Omission

Lifting as We Climb

view Table Content


“One of the peculiar things about economic inequality is that the people who are most articulate about it are not poor, while the poor themselves have said little, at least in print, about their situation.”
Photograph © Reuters/Brendan McDermid
“It would be nice to get through this review without recourse to the term ‘writer’s writer.’ The thing is, in the case of Joy Williams, I have seen the cliché made flesh.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
“Miniatures originated in Persia and were brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals conquered it in the sixteenth century. They could take on almost any subject: landscapes or portraits; stories of love, war, or play.”
Painting by by Imran Qureshi.
“The business of being a country veterinarian is increasingly precarious. The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region.”
Photograph by Lance Rosenfield
“Rosie and her husband had burned through their small savings in the first few months after she lost her job. Now their family of five relied on his minimum-wage paychecks, plus Rosie’s unemployment and food stamps, which, combined, brought them to around $2,000 per month, just above the poverty line.”
Illustrations by Taylor Callery

Ratio of children’s emergency-room visits for injuries related to fireworks last year to those related to “desk supplies”:


The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.

The Islamic State opened two new theme parks featuring a Ferris wheel, teacup rides, and bumper cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today