Source: Noam Scheiber / New Republic
One of the stars of Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address was Jackie Bray, a single mother who was laid off in 2011 and struggled for months to find a good-paying job. Bray’s luck finally turned, the president explained, when German industrial giant Siemens hired her at a turbine factory in North Carolina. Though Bray didn’t have the skills Siemens wanted, the company partnered with a local community college to train workers like her and even covered their tuition. Before long, Bray was earning a generous wage in a job she loved, operating robotic equipment and lasers. As the president spoke, she sat next to the first lady and beamed.
It was the sort of success that cuts to the heart of Obama’s vision of government—activist but not heavy-handed. “I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did,” he elaborated. “Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans.”
It was also P.R. gold for Siemens, the kind of product placement you couldn’t buy if you wanted to. But you can certainly increase your odds. As it happens, Siemens had recently signed up Camille Johnston, the first lady’s former communications director, to be its vice president of corporate affairs. For almost two years, few people had a better chance to size up the Obamas, and Johnston put her insights to use prepping her boss at Siemens for a White House meeting. “It was the first foreign company [Obama] mentioned in a State of the Union as far as I could tell,” says a former administration official. “It’s not like it happens by accident.”
Welcome to the buckraking phase of the Obama era. If the campaign was about hope, and the early presidency was about change, increasingly the administration has settled into a kind of normalcy in which it accommodates itself to Washington far more than Washington accommodates itself to Obama. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when the result is a bipartisan schmooze-fest at the Jefferson Hotel. But when it comes to the D.C. custom of trading a White House security clearance for a private-sector sinecure, there’s a lot to be said for not going native so easily.
To read this article in its entirety visit the New Republic.