One of the central planks of President Obama's campaign was a pledge to move beyond the "partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long." So far, however, little has changed in the ways of Washington, which remains deeply and bitterly divided by partisanship and ideology. Obama is blunt about his frustrations in this regard. "There were those who argued that because I had spoke of a need for unity in this country that our nation was somehow entering into a period of post-partisanship," Obama said of his election, in an address to the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church on Jan. 17, 2010. "That didn't work out so well."
In other ways as well, Washington's worst habits have remained unchanged. Lobbyists, a top target of Obama's, appear to have retained much of their power, if not increased it, over the past year. The third quarter of 2009 saw $849 million spent on federal lobbyists, about $8 million more than a year earlier. The total amount spent through the first three quarters of 2009 was $2.5 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than all the money spent in 2005 on lobbyists. At the White House, Obama has issued orders restricting lobbyists from joining advisory committees or revolving into government jobs. But those efforts are merely tinkering with the margins of, not making changes to, the central machinery of government.
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