By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Today's New York Times carries a reminder that President Obama is willing to hold his nose and enter into negotiations with our Republic's most heinous enemies. I refer, of course, to lobbyists. The Times noted that White House officials explicitly acknowledged that they cut a deal with the pharmaceutical industry (or more specifically, its lobbyists) locking in $80 billion in savings—meaning that the White House would oppose including measures allowing the government to negotiate drug prices. And as the Times reports:
The new attention to the agreement could prove embarrassing to the White House, which has sought to keep lobbyists at a distance, including by refusing to hire them to work in the administration.
That's a polite way of putting it. The fact is that Obama and his staff painted lobbyists as shambling fonts of corruption who would not be allowed into the pristine halls of the squeaky clean Obama administration.
As I've noted before the problem with such sweeping rhetoric is that it runs up against reality in a couple of ways: First not all lobbyists are evil; second it's not realistic to think that you can staff an administration without employing anyone who has lobbied; and finally, as is demonstrated by today's Times piece, even if the first two assertions were untrue you cannot do business in Washington without dealing with lobbyists. So intemperate rhetoric ends up making the administration look like it's in bed with unsavory characters, making sweetheart side deals.
The Times piece is also interesting for the glimpse it provides into the glimpse it provides of the political hardball the Obama administration has employed with healthcare industry lobbyists. The drug manufacturers cut a deal and have a "seat of honor at the negotiating table" while lobbyists for health insurance companies (who have emerged as the villain in the healthcare reform--or health insurance reform, as the president has started calling it--storyline) didn't and have been "pushed away."