A Question of Motives

Whenever things go wrong, as they so often do, the most commonly heard explanation is that an unnamed “they” have acted out of an ingenious but malevolent self-interest. Just this past Sunday, while attending the traditional Christmas bowling party at a local alley, we listened to a soon-to-be-retired friend expound at length about how “they” had deliberately caused the financial insecurity he’s been feeling lately.

While we don’t doubt that they are a nasty bunch, whoever they are, and are certain that greed remains as deadly a sin as ever, we never dismiss the role that simple stupidity plays in human affairs. Always mindful of the old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we pointed out to our friend that the hellish financial crisis that continues to bedevil the economy was caused by the government’s moronic but presumably well-intentioned efforts to provide home loans to anyone who could affix an “X” to the mortgage papers. Citing another favorite example, we noted the vast economic damage caused by an otherwise admirable desire to save the planet from destruction.

Our friend was willing to concede the argument, and seemed slightly cheered by the thought that his problems were inadvertent rather deliberate, but today we were forced to re-think our position after reading The Washington Post’s latest story about the on-going Solyndra debacle.

Those who have been following the slowly unfolding Solyndra affair, which involved a half-billion federal loan to a campaign contributor’s solar panel company that promptly went bankrupt, will likely not be shocked by the Post’s headline revelation that “Politics infused Obama energy programs.” Nor will they be surprised by anything else in the article, such as the obvious observation that “Obama’s entire $80 billion clean-technology program has begun to look like a political liability for an administration about to enter a bruising reelection campaign.”

What is surprising is that such frank analysis has found its way onto the pages of The Washington Post, which is hardly a member in good standing of our Obama-bashing club. The article contains little in the way of new information, but it is the first time that the paper has put its facts together in a way that impugns the administration’s motives as well as its results. Digging deep into their little-used sources, the reporters found a spokesman for the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense to say “What’s so troubling is that politics seems to be dominant factor.” The story even goes so far as to quote a former Solyndra employee, identified as “still jobless and at risk of losing her home,” saying “It’s not about the people; it’s politics. We all feel betrayed.”

The White House was given ample opportunity to deny the charges, and summoned up the gumption to say in a prepared statement that “This administration is one that will fiercely fight to protect jobs even when it’s not the popular thing to do,” but the reporters are uncharacteristically skeptical. They state matter-of-factly, possibly because it is a matter of fact, that the many documents obtained by the paper show “Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.”

Kind-hearted as we are, and ever eager to think the best of people, we had been willing to chalk up the Solyndra loan to mere environmentalist bone-headedness. When even The Washington Post is taking time out from its usual apologetics to suggest that it was a bone-headed ploy for political gain, we must re-consider.

— Bud Norman

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