Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Who Slipped Up, Mr. President?

A funny thing happened to Tom Daschle on his way to being the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Apparently, much to everyone’s surprise, staffers on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions actually checked out Mr. Daschle’s background and discovered that he owed beau coup bucks to Uncle Sam in back taxes. I say “to everyone’s surprise” because I can think of no other reason why Mr. Daschle’s nomination would have been sent forward by President Obama. Somebody on Mr. Obama’s transition team must have believed that because Mr. Daschle is a former member of the Senate club his nomination would be confirmed without anyone checking him out. It turns out to be terribly embarrassing for Mr. Daschle and for the president. (I guess Mr. Daschle will cry all the way to his banks).

And, let’s not forget about Timothy Geithner our new Secretary of the Treasury. A few weeks back when his nomination came up before the Senate Finance Committee we discovered that he too wasn’t exactly paid up at the IRS. Again, I assume that someone on the transition team didn’t think that Senate staffers would ever discover something as insignificant as a bit of back taxes. Again it was terribly embarrassing for Mr. Geithner and for the president.

We also have the case of Bill Richardson, who was nominated by Mr. Obama to be the Secretary of Commerce. Before his name ever reached the Senate, Mr. Richardson had to withdraw because an investigation in his home state might prove embarrassing to the president.

Three cabinet nominations screwed up. Well, maybe not for Mr. Geithner because the United States Senate Finance Committee is so forgiving. (Or else they don’t really expect the rich to follow the tax laws they write.) But as far as the president is concerned these are all terribly embarrassing and they necessarily cost him a good part of the political capital he earned on Election Day. How do things like this happen?

Well, people do make mistakes.

After Mr. Daschle withdrew his name from consideration, President Obama used the politician’s second favorite tool—I screwed up; I’m sorry; I won’t do it again. Of course, this is better than the politician’s number one tool—I didn’t do it and I dare you to prove that I did. But, after a while, apologies don’t work that well. It’s like my granddaughter. At two she is quite adept at using “Sorry.” She goes over and bops her sister on the head, then says, “Sorry”. She kicks the dog because it is in her way and then says, “Sorry.” I tried to explain to her that saying sorry doesn’t change the fact that she did something she shouldn't have. In time she will learn. I hope that Mr. Obama also learns that being sorry is not the same as doing things right the first time.

Mr. Obama ran for the presidency on a slogan of “Yes we can” and promised us meaningful changes in Washington. So far, I haven’t seen it. If President Obama cannot get his staff to understand that stupid errors like these will not be tolerated, there are going to be millions of Americans really angry when his honeymoon is over.

1 comment:

Roger Mc Cauley said...

Dear Maven
You must have had a crystal ball in front of you when you wrote that last paragraph about the danger of an angry public. Since then we have has a whole array of failures culminating with the Van Jones fiasco recently. Just think.... an Administration can get in this much trouble in only seven months. They must just try harder than the Bushies