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In his book, So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government, Kaiser describes how Cassidy & Associates built up its expertise in earmarking. As the practice took form in the 1980s, Danforth was one of its most vocal critics.
In short, Blunt seems to exemplify the sleaze and narrow-mindedness that give the hives to blue bloods such as Danforth. Yet, there was Danforth at the St. Louis dinner, getting a big ovation for making Blunt his buddy.
The about-face led Sarah Steelman, a conservative Republican who's also a contestant for Bond's Senate seat, to take a Twitter shot at Danforth last week. Her tweet said it was "funny" that Danforth would join hands with Blunt after saying the party needed a fresh face.
So what has led Danforth to Ziploc the principles that he has articulated in recent years? Barack Obama.
"My view is that it is very important for Republicans to hold the Missouri Senate seat," Danforth tells me. "It has to do with the general direction in which Obama is leading the country and that we have to have an effective opposition."
Danforth says Obama has aggregated power in Washington and in the White House that should make any good Republican nervous.
"I think when Obama talked about change, he really meant it. We didn't understand — that is, the country didn't understand — what he meant until he started doing things. But it really is a sea change. It's a very dramatic change in the relationship between the federal government and the rest of the country."
The Congressional Budget Office said in March that the president's budget would force the government to borrow $9.3 trillion over the next decade. "It's not just doubling the national debt in five years, although that's very big," Danforth says, "but whether the president should be able to fire the CEOs and boards of companies, and whether the government should own 60 percent of General Motors and whether there should be a pay czar and whether Vice President Biden should be designated, in the words of the administration, 'the sheriff' to go around the country and police how state and local governments are spending money."
Danforth wouldn't be a Republican if he didn't worry about these things. Of course, the deficit argument is kind of lame, considering the Republicans' lack of discipline when they were in charge. A recent New York Times analysis determined that Obama's initiatives will account for only 10 percent of the deficits running from now to 2012. President George W. Bush's policies, wars and economic downturns account for the rest.
And it's true that the government owns 60 percent of GM. But Danforth is unsteady in his understanding of how we got there. I tried to suggest to him that government bailouts of the auto industry began when Bush was in office.
"Not for the car companies," Danforth said.
I believe they did, I said.
"I don't think so."
In fact, Bush announced in December that the government would tap into the Troubled Asset Relief Program in order to provide $17.4 billion to GM and Chrysler. And Rick Wagoner, the GM CEO who was so audaciously kicked to the curb by the Obama team? The company's stock traded for nearly $70 when he took charge. It was worth $3.62 on the day he was told to leave.