2009: Rants of the Right

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 22, 2009


Michelle Malkin,Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
376 pages, Regnery Press, July 27, 2009
Highest Position Reached on NYT Best Seller List: No. 1 (6 weeks)
Readability: 3
Digestibility: 4
Crazy Factor: -2
Overall Score: 5

Thanks to Michelle Malkin, we now know that, if you took every allegation and insinuation made in the conservative media and blogosphere about Barack Obama and his friends, family, associates, acquaintances, and appointees, and laid them all end-to-end, they would cover 194 pages. Which apparently wasn't quite enough for the publisher, so Malkin tacks onto Culture of Corruption another 100 pages covering the alleged sins of the Service Employees International Union, ACORN, the Clintons, and Chris Dodd.

It's an exhausting read. Every detail, every dollar figure, every bit of employment history, must be laid out in full, no matter how trivial the charge or how tenuous the connection. Malkin goes on for seven pages, for example, on a King County, Washington, public-disclosure issue dating from 1997, involving an Obama HUD deputy appointee I've never heard of.

The tedious allegations are so eye-glazing, I imagine it's easy to get lulled into thinking that all these little stories are adding up to something big. But they don't. Five pages about the campaign contributions of former Bronx borough president and Obama's Office of Urban Affairs director Adolfo Carrion Jr. is apparently supposed to be horrifying in its own right.

During the campaign, transition, and early months of the administration (Malkin's material seems to have been culled up through late April), the conservative press and blogosphere threw everything they found, or heard, or imagined, against the wall, to see what might stick. Malkin has simply chronicled the entire mess.

She hides the gross bias and unreliability of the sources of these allegations. In the text, you'll see references to the work of "investigative journalist Stanley Kurtz," "former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy," "scholar Max Schultz," "investigative journalist Matthew Vadum," and "reporter Byron York" — all of whom share one thing in common: they are all paid bloggers for National Review Online, and it is their posts on that site that Malkin is citing. Footnotes also show that Malkin relied extensively on reporting — and I use the term loosely — from the conservative Washington Times, and a host of sketchy bloggers.

It's a shame, because she really might have made a compelling, if not quite damning, case by sorting out the significant issues from the nonsense.

Malkin has a point, for instance, about Obama allowing staff and appointees to skirt around his "no lobbyists" rule. She is also correct that many top-level, inner-circle Democrats — Joe Biden included — are disgustingly tied into the backroom, back-scratching, political-fundraising culture. It is not unreasonable, either, to look at how Obama and those on his team worked within Chicago's, shall we say, rough-and-tumble political culture.

Instead, we get loads of minutia, sprinkled with horrified exclamations wildly disproportionate to the facts being recounted. Tom Daschle's tax problems are, according to Malkin, "unbelievable lapses," "an ethical morass," a "fiasco of the first order," and "a Shrek-sized stink bomb from start to finish." A chapter on Michelle Obama is necessary because "the First Lady's crony history is vital to understanding the depth and breadth of her hubby's ethical corruption." No, it really isn't.

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