Sunday, January 25, 2009


By Ivan G. Goldman

It’s getting less and less likely that big-time news media will notice or point out information we ought to have. For example, when’s the last time you saw any of them try to get an honest accounting of how politicians spend their campaign contributions? A good three-fourths of our congresspeople hold ultra-safe, gerrymandered seats, yet they spend approximately half their workday raising millions and millions they don’t need to run campaigns they can’t lose. Something's fishy. But I’ve already digressed from my topic, which is to point out something telling about Barack Obama that I haven't seen pointed out.
For their well-earned pre-inaugural vacation the Obama family rented an estate in Hawaii. Just about no one noticed the significance at play. Liberal columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, for example, tried to make a point but missed entirely. Krugman actually castigated Barack for taking an ostentatious vacation. But he failed to notice that the Obamas paid for it themselves.
The Bushes, though they loved getting away from the White House, don’t enjoy travel, so they mostly went back to their own place in Texas, (a "ranch" that raises nothing) stayed with Daddy in Kennebunkport, or went to the presidential compound at Camp David. None of that was unethical. We can only speculate how Junior would have behaved if he were intelligent and curious enough to take more venturesome vacations. But let’s skip that topic and go back a notch to the president before him, namely Bill Clinton.
Bill and Hillary would walk a mile to avoid picking up a check of any kind. The Clintons enjoy travel – real travel. They just hate paying for it. The media never honed in on all the vacation freebies the Clintons grabbed – and still grab in their post-White House phase. We always get the destinations, but no one hones in on the particulars that count.
When the Clintons go to Martha’s Vineyard, they stay at the Robert S. McNamara mansion. When they hanker for the Dominican Republic, they take over the estate of Oscar De La Renta. In Jackson Hole, Wyoming they lodge in the elaborate digs of industrialist and financier Max C. Chapman. See a pattern here? The Clintons paid not one cent for any of this. They are confirmed, out-of-the-closet schnorers. That’s a Yiddish word that’s usually translated as “beggars.” But the word means more than that. A schnorer is fifty percent con-artist, fifty percent-beggar, and one hundred percent pain in the ass. A moocher, a parasite, a freeloader. A schnorer is the guy who’s always trying to get something for free, even if he doesn’t want it that much. The pursuit of making someone else pay is his chief delight.
When the Obamas looked for a place to vacation they didn’t pull down the list of ultra-rich jerks always looking for favors and willing to pay for them. (You could argue it's the taxpayers who actually do the paying, since their interests are sacrificed in order to pay off the hosts) The Obamas opened the Yellow Pages and rented the place, fair and square, just like anyone else would do. That’s a strong indicator of the changes we’re witnessing in this White House. The people at the top of this administration must adhere to the strongest anti-influence-peddling code we’ve seen in the modern age, and aides have their salaries frozen. Ethics. What a concept.
So no, the Obamas don’t stay at Motel 6, but hey, they actually earned their money. Most of it comes from Obama’s books, which he wrote himself. No ghost writers. That’s another form of integrity that nowadays is positively unique among public figures.
I won’t try to list all the other admirable things the Obamas are doing at this point. I just wanted to point out that they aren’t schnorers, and for this they deserve credit.


DHSmd said...

Well put.

Enjoying your blog.

savannah said...

i'm looking forward to hearing your views on the first 100 days (or 50, if you're so inclined.)!