Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Grudge match

Last week Quin Hillyer alluded to the bad blood between Team Maverick economic advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin and SEC Chairman Chris Cox as the reason for the Republican's idiotic proposal to make Cox the fall guy for the current economic crisis (which was caused by problems outside Cox's SEC portfolio).

Now, George Will puts specifics onto the allusion:
Perhaps an old antagonism is involved in McCain's fact-free slander. His most conspicuous economic adviser is Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who previously headed the Congressional Budget Office. There he was an impediment to conservatives, including then-Congressman Cox, who as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee persistently tried and generally failed to enlist CBO support for "dynamic scoring" that would estimate the economic growth effects of proposed tax cuts.
This kind of petty grudge-holding and score-settling business is a lot more common in Washington than most outsiders can imagine. Feminists may have made famous the expression that "the personal is political," but personal relationships are very important to how things are done in Washington, and sometimes it resembles nothing so much as a pack of seventh-grade girls engaged in one of those silly popularity-based feuds we all remember from our middle-school days.

It seems bizarre to the average citizen to learn that presidential elections or federal fiscal policy might be determined by childish quarrels like this one between Holtz-Eakin and Cox, but stuff like this goes on all the time in Washington.

Ask yourself, for instance, why Ron Paul -- a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate -- refused to endorse Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr. Is it because of some fundamental ideological difference, or is it because somebody got their ego bruised?

Often, as seems to be the case with Holtz-Eakin and John McCain, you'll have an adviser who gets the ear of a politician and uses that relationship to poison the politician against the adviser's enemies: "Don't listen to so-and-so because [insert gossip, slander, etc.]." Thus, politics becomes clique-ridden, full of falsehood and cronyism, with everybody sucking up to the clever courtiers who inevitable insinuate themselves into positions of influence in such an environment.

The day I arrived in D.C. in 1997, I found myself in conversation with an experienced Washington journalist named Michael Rust, who warned me: "Welcome to Washington, a town where people advance" -- and here, he made a hand gesture as if climbing a ladder -- "on the knives stuck in the backs of their former friends." Truer words were never spoken.


  1. The problem was brought about by Barr and especially some with his campaign, like Russ Verney, Shane Cory and Mike Ferguson (his comments on his myspace).
    Paul knows well his supporters are very diverse and - with every major politician - that there are say 10% kooky types. No one can control the kooky types and given the secrecy of the Bush govt., there exist a lot
    distrust. There are a significant amount of racists who support Obama and McCain respectively. Barr made several strategic mistakes. He should simply have attended the news conference and he would have gained the trust with most of the Ron Paul supporters and his fundraising would also have received a big boost. The four point document is a moderate libertarian and it speaks for a great breakthrough by Paul that he could get Nader and the Green Party nominee to also sign the document.
    Barr understood well Paul did not want to endorse someone and frankly this was also not necessary in order for him to receive most of the Ron Paul support. His decision to pull-out was a huge strategic blunder. The issue of liberty is NOT only advanced by the Libertarian party. This is the crucial issue Barr should understand. And if he thought it was a gathering of small, insignificant parties, guess Nader is polling higher than barr in a few states, and will be on the ballot in only a state or more less than Barr and Nader raised substantially more money than Barr.


  2. Not really a surprise, if interesting to learn one of the inside facts. Dealing with professors who hate each other over academic disagreements, then attack each other with passive-aggressive snippets in much the same fashion allowed me to set aside any allusions that "intellect", education, or age necessarily have anything to do with maturity, wisdom, or grace.

    McCain, the Other McCain, has never shown that he is any better, and often shown that side with his tirades and such (same with Obama, though the media covers that much less). McCain just has a larger grudge list due to his greater time in D.C., being nearly outside of his party, and some other things.

    I suspect that anyone given power, especially among the elite, both because of their status and the forcefulness that brought them to the post, will have that deep seated (and usually wrong) self-assurance that will allow for pettiness. I do suspect, as well, the more secular, the greater the drift. Relativity allows for anything, so long as one wins.

    Oh, have you noticed the sniping between Biden and Obama? Anyone want to bet this is a melodrama set up for the ouster of Biden so as to have Hillary come to the rescue of the party? Just curious.