"His father was a great friend of my father." The reference to William Ayers' father was how Mayor Richard M. Daley began his defense of Barack Obama for his association with the unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist. Daley's father, of course, was Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago from 1955 until his death in 1976. Ayers' father was head of Commonwealth Edison, the Chicago-based utility, from 1964 to 1980.
You bet they were great friends. That's governance, Chicago style. The head of government is friends with the heads of every big business, lobby and union, and together they make decisions on how everyone else will live. Those on the inside get what they want. Those on the outside -- well, they get what the big guys want them to have. That's life in the big city.
It's not the worst way to run a city. I know -- I'm from Detroit, which might be better off if it had mayors named Daley for 41 of the last 54 years. But it's not the optimal way to run a national administration, at least if you've promised to bring in a new era of bipartisanship and mutual respect. Even so, it appears to be the way that Barack Obama, who once aspired to be mayor of Chicago, has decided to run his administration.
We can see that nowhere better than on the health care issue. Over the spring and summer, the White House door has been wide open to lobbyists from health care businesses. The doctors' lobby has gotten promises that physician payments won't be knocked down too much. In return, they are expected to lobby for whatever bill the congressional Democrats come up with.
The pharmaceutical firms' lobbyist, former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, has gotten assurances that his clients' business model won't be wrecked any more than it already has been by stringent regulation. In return PhRMA is running TV ads for health care reform.
The health insurance companies were on board, too. Until, that is, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus presented his bill requiring them to cover anyone who applies but exacting only small fines from healthy individuals who decide not to buy insurance until they get sick. Since this looked like a quick road to bankruptcy, the health insurers' lobby commissioned a study that pointed out, correctly I think, that the Baucus bill would increase the cost of insurance to those who already have it.