Keeping the Cobwebs out of the Cabinet

Richardson, Geithner, Daschle, Killefer. Only one of these Obama appointees made it through confirmation and that was only because he was viewed as indispensible in our current economic crisis. Ironically, Tim Geithner, it could be argued, contributed to our current economic crisis.

When it comes to cabinet picks, is President Obama losing his credibility or are we demanding too much from our public servants? Has Obama set standards even he cannot keep?

In the case of Bill Richardson, it just seems like poor vetting, plain and simple. Richardson’s troubles as New Mexico Governor could not have been a secret. I remember when he dropped out, my conservative associates immediately taunted me about it and my response was, “let’s hope this is the worst of it.”

Then along came Tim Geithner who as head of Treasury would be in charge of the IRS. Tim didn’t pay all his taxes and when caught, still didn’t pay all his taxes until the nomination came around. The sturm und drang began to swirl but as stated earlier, Geithner was viewed as so knowledgeable about our economy that his confirmation was essential to our survival. Interestingly, might Obama have been better off naming Larry Summers? Who would we rather have running Treasury, a tax cheat or an intellectual wrongly accused of misogyny?

Tom Daschle

Tom Daschle

Today’s fiasco could not be obscured behind the “he/she is essential to our survival” premise. Neither Tom Daschle nor Nancy Killefer are make-or-break choices for their respective roles. A day or so ago, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked by a reporter where exactly does the President draw the line on what is acceptable illegal behavior for admission to the cabinet. Just how big a tax cheat do you have to be in order to be disqualified? Of course Gibbs dismissed the question saying he would not engage in hypotheticals.

Because I admire Obama, I would like to think that both of today’s “withdrawals from consideration” were quietly prompted by him. The official story with Daschle is that a New York Times editorial sent him over the edge. But I’d still like to believe that Obama called both appointees and said “Look, I can’t claim to be running a law abiding White House when everyone I appoint has got some ‘mistake’ to be apologized for. You’ve got to go.”

Nancy Killefer

Nancy Killefer

Whether Daschle and Killefer jumped or were pushed, there still remains a concern about the President’s judgement, or perhaps a greater concern about what service to our country does to a person. Is it impossible to find an honest man in American politics? Does everyone have a skeleton in the closet? One of the themes echoed by pundits today is whether all this scrutiny will discourage people from seeking public service. However I must sympathize with Roger Simon of “Politico”. On today’s edition of MSNBC’s “Hardball”, Simon expressed frustration with this concern about scrutiny. He seemed incredulous that we would expect anything less than law abiding public servants. When Tim Geithner does not pay his taxes, he winds up Treasury Secretary. If I don’t pay mine, I wind up in jail. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?

One thing is clear. Whether it is the personal failings of his nominees or the partisan rancor over the stimulus package, President Obama is learning the hard way what happens when his admirable and lofty goals intersect with reality. The true measure of Obama’s leadership will be whether, in the face of these and other disappointments, he can continue to keep America’s hope alive.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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16 thoughts on “Keeping the Cobwebs out of the Cabinet

  1. Rutherford,

    From ecstacy back to reality in only 2 weeks? Give him a chance…he screwed up.
    Now, when do we get the free stuff?

  2. With two wars and an economy in the toilet, the honeymoon was bound to end quickly.

    And no, in this economy there is no free stuff.

    P.S. I do applaud Obama’s mea culpa tour of the network news last night. Eight years of Bush yielded only “disappointments”, no mistakes. Obama is a breath of fresh air.Nice to be led by an adult for a change.

  3. Rutherford, Obama passionately defended Daschle AFTER he was aware that he committed tax fraud. In a display of ballsy Machiavellianism, he simply waited to see how us scrubs would react. It tasted like shit to us, so Obama spit Daschle out. Obama would be getting absolutely panned right now if he wasn’t such a cool cat.

  4. DR, in my little fantasy moment of imagining Obama giving Daschle the call, I never said WHEN the call was made. Politics, sadly dictated that Obama give the very popular Daschle as much rope as possible.

    This has been Obama’s MO for some time now … wait to see which way the wind is blowing before firing a shot. Rev Wright, a case in point. You might not like the style, but it beats shooting from he hip/lip as we’ve seen in the prior administration.

  5. DR, in my little fantasy moment of imagining Obama giving Daschle the call, I never said WHEN the call was made. Politics, sadly dictated that Obama give the very popular Daschle as much rope as possible.

    Not really, if he wanted to be honest, he could have said that he didn’t know and this made him feel that Daschle is not trustworthy enough for the Obama administration.

  6. Solar, I corrected your html (just start what you’re quoting with “

    ” (without the quotation marks) and then end what you’re quoting with “

    ” again without the quotation marks.

    Now to your remark …. we really don’t know what Obama knew and when he knew it. The real problem are all these politicians who put themselves out there knowing there are skeletons just waiting to be revealed. It goes all the way back to John Edwards who never should have run for President knowing what he knew about his personal life.

  7. “P.S. I do applaud Obama’s mea culpa tour of the network news last night. Eight years of Bush yielded only “disappointments”, no mistakes. Obama is a breath of fresh air.Nice to be led by an adult for a change.”

    Yes, it’s a breath of fresh air, with a slight hint of menthol.
    Mia Farrow Culpa Obama, the consummate player, may have used this mistake tour to further elevate his image as the Anti-Bush…more shallow proof of this “change”.
    Perhaps Bush would have admitted some of his mistakes if the media admitted some of his successes.

  8. Rutherford,
    Thanks.

    Obama is the president of the United States! If he wants to know how relevant these things are, he can be the first, or at least the second, to know. People ignored Geithner, so Obama hoped people would ignore Daschle. That will probably be Obama’s problem, he does’t run from the people he should be running from; he searches them out.

    Timotheus,

    Perhaps Bush would have admitted some of his mistakes if the media admitted some of his successes.

    Bush should be admitting mistakes regardless of what the media does.

  9. Solar, I’ve sent you an e-mail that should clear up the html confusion and I’ve corrected your comment.

    I’m not sure I’d agree that Obama looks for trouble as you imply. I do confess that he may take longer than prudent to cut ties with problematic people. I think he is tolerant to a fault.

    As for your comment to Timotheus, I could not agree more.

  10. P.S. to Solar, ROTFL, I just looked at comment number 7 and see that I didn’t help you at all because my instructions to you got translated by WordPress and were rendered useless. Sorry ’bout that. Again, my email should be better help!

  11. “Bush should be admitting mistakes regardless of what the media does.”

    Solar, let’s focus on the future….stop living in the past… Obama’s making the mistakes today…let’s move forward.
    By the way, Bush did admit one mistake…he said he shoulda put a whoopie cushion on the Oval office executive chair when he left.

  12. Timotheus,
    You brought it up, not me.

    Ruthorford,

    I’m not sure I’d agree that Obama looks for trouble as you imply. I do confess that he may take longer than prudent to cut ties with problematic people. I think he is tolerant to a fault.

    I’m going to ammend my above statement. It isn’t that Obama searches these types of people out per say (though he did say so, “I chose my friends carefully… the marxist proffesors”), he is just naturally attracted to the proggressive political ideology that creates people like Wright.

  13. Solar, I’m not sure I would necessarily disagree with your last statement. Obama may be the more naturally moderate type who is attracted to those more radical. Perhaps he gets a vicarious thrill out of them?

    By the way, you’re welcome for the email. 😉

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