Morgan Liddick: Obama is already mastering the double standard |

Morgan Liddick: Obama is already mastering the double standard


You’ve probably been following the front-page headlines about Senator Barack Obama’s campaign and the run-up to his coronation in Denver. If you read the Denver Post, you can’t miss them. They’re relentless, above-the-fold, big and uniformly positive.

I’m waiting for another sort of headline. You know, the one reading “Top Democrat Senators, Obama Advisors, Caught in Home Mortgage Payola Scheme.”

You’ve probably read right over most of the details of this sordid affair in small, page 22-type stories: Jim Johnson, one of the members of Barack Obama’s Vice Presidential Selection Team, received a “special” low rate on his home mortgage from Countrywide, a lender up to its eyeballs in the subprime lending market. Nothing in particular wrong about that ” I have a Countrywide Mortgage, and I’d like to have gotten a “special” rate, too.

But I’m not the CEO of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), the government-sponsored organization that provides federal loan guarantees for home mortgages. Mr. Johnson was when he received his consideration from the private company with whom his organization worked very, very closely. At the time, he was using your money to support the lending Countrywide was undertaking, which made him their friend, indeed.

Nor was Mr. Johnson alone among prominent Democrats as a beneficiary of Countrywide’s largesse. Senator Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) received a business loan through what Countrywide described as its “VIP Friend” program ” a type of lending that home mortgage companies almost never do. Perhaps Senator Conrad’s chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee and membership on the Senate Finance Committee had something to do with Countrywide’s willingness to take a flyer on an unorthodox type of loan. Perhaps.

Then, there’s Senator Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, who also participated in Countrywide’s “friend” program. He not only received low rates, but points were waived for two loans ” a savings of more than ten thousand dollars. Oh, and yes, the Senator is the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Sometimes, friendship is its own reward. Sometimes, more is involved.

Other special “friends” included Franklin Raines, also a former Fannie Mae CEO; Alphonso Jackson, a former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Donna Shalala, a former Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Richard Holbrooke, a former Assistant Secretary of State. All in all, a fairly impressive portfolio of Washington insiders.

So, where’s the coverage? The demands for investigation? Where’s the outrage? Just imagine what the stories would have been had these names included, say, Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, or Representative Tom Delay, R-Texas.

Oh, wait. We don’t have to imagine in the last instance. He was hounded out of town following a ham-sandwich indictment from a political prosecutor and a torrent of accusations, whisperings and innuendo.

It’s not that the partisan slant surprises me. Anyone with a pulse and the ability to read at an eighth-grade level understands that there are consistent heroes and villains in the media, and that their roles are prescribed by politics. Nor am I not particularly annoyed by partisanship per se ” everyone has an opinion, and is entitled to it.

What does annoy, however, is the transparent hypocrisy of reporters and editors who insist in the teeth of the evidence that villains come in only one flavor, that those who oppose them are always and only saints, and that this is an unbiased presentation of God’s honest truth rather than an opinion. Such an approach to the news creates a worldview that diverges remarkably from reality, and engenders shock, surprise and outrage when the real world forces its way in. It is not helpful to a nation that endeavors to govern itself wisely.

And lest we think that this issue is confined to national politics ” lofty issues in the never-never land of Washington ” consider this: it turns out that St. John Hickenlooper has been shilling for money to support Denver’s Democratic National Convention while traveling on the public dime.

As of June 25, there had been at least 20 trips on city money during which donors were tapped for this private event. But neither staff nor media found anything untoward about the mix. As one staffer put it, “He’s careful to separate public from private events.” One could almost see the reporters solemnly nodding in agreement.

Now imagine ” I’ll make this easy ” Vice President Cheney traveling on Air Force Two to Germany. While there, he buttonholes German companies to participate in a deal with, oh, say, Halliburton. Do you think for a moment that the “careful separation” argument would fly? But if it would not, one might usefully ask why it does in the former case. It is similarly bunkacious.

So, I await the headlines about Democrat naughtiness. And maybe even indictments.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at Also, comment on this column at

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