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Barack Obama and Jimmy Hoffa are like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Lady Gaga and hype, the “Jersey Shore” cast and hairspray: inseparable. The president can no more disown the Teamsters Union’s leader than he can disown his own id.
At a Labor Day rally in Detroit on Monday before Obama spoke, Hoffa stoked anti-tea party hostility by urging his minions to “take these son of a b*tches out.” (Botched grammar added that extra boost of street-gang authenticity to the labor lawyer’s threat.) The same civility police on the left who decry any references to crosshairs as incitements to violence are now mute about Hoffa’s brass-knuckle rhetoric. The Chicagoans in the White House refuse to comment.
Those calling on Obama to condemn Hoffa’s uncivil tone are deluding themselves. The 1.4 million-member Teamsters lifted Obama to power with a coveted endorsement and bottomless campaign coffers funded with coerced member dues. Over the past two decades, the union has donated nearly $25 million to Democrats (compared to $1.8 million for Republicans).
What quid pro quo protection has the Teamsters’ money bought? Let us count the ways.
Back in May 2008, as he jockeyed with rival Hillary Clinton for Big Labor support, Obama promised to end longstanding federal probes into the Teamsters’ mob racket. In 1989, the union was facing federal racketeering charges after Justice Department officials determined it was operating as a “wholly owned subsidiary of organized crime.” The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama phoned several Teamsters heavies to convey his vow to begin dismantling the independent federal watchdog overseeing the Teamsters; an Obama spokesman confirmed it.
Teamsters reformers now consider the review board a “toothless mechanism,” according to a recent article in the left-wing The Nation magazine. As one Hoffa critic put it, “You’re so tied up into a corrupt culture. You have this culture of protecting each other.”
Meanwhile, a federal court has determined that Hoffa and his goons raided the Teamsters treasury to try to buy his own re-election support with jobs and pensions. As a court-appointed watchdog determined this spring: “The conduct revealed in this investigation reflects a culture, or mind-set where elected union officials do not clearly distinguish between their fiduciary responsibilities to the union and their separate political objectives of achieving election.”
Nevertheless, Obama’s crime-fighting crusaders are far more preoccupied with cracking down on Gibson guitars made of rare wood and covering up the Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal than with cleaning up the Teamsters’ graft and pay-for-play dirty business.
While he regularly lambastes “millionaires and billionaires” who benefit from tax loopholes, Obama has zero to say about the crony Cadillac health insurance tax exemption he doled out to the Teamsters and other Big Labor groups.
In January 2010, Hoffa and his pals met behind closed doors at the White House to ensure that they would be shielded while other middle-class Americans were forced to bear the burden.
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