President Obama apologized for the tax problems of his recent nominees and just in time.
We are used to presidents defending their appointments, saying, “I’m a hundred percent behind my selection for secretary of HHS. He’s a good man.” That smacks of leadership. It shows steadiness. There will always be opposition. But in this case, Obama was defending three nominees, all of whom violated tax laws, some of which would put any ordinary citizen in jail? Well, that was a bit too much. And three times? The crisis had hit critical mass.
The problem was not that the nominees were flawed. We are all flawed. Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama too are flawed. It was the nature of the sins. Obama was calling for changes. In his very first act he began the closure of the Guantanamo prison facility, ending the culture of torture in our military and intelligence. It was a signal to the world that we were going to be a morally responsible people. And then even while his White House director of legislative affairs was preparing the announcement of new policies to reign in Wall Street greed, limiting salaries for companies that take public funds, his nominees were on the front pages, owing thousands of dollars in taxes they didn’t pay.
Wall Street tycoons, who take millions in salaries, and yet are given government bailouts? White House cabinet officers that don’t pay taxes like ordinary slobs, and yet are put in charge of making sure that the rest of us do? Hmmm, there is some irony there.
In 2001, when the Linda Chavez scandal erupted, Bush’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, or when political opposition built against the Harriet Miers nomination, the president and the White House made their “stand by your man” statements and then grew very quiet as the clamor rose. But Daschle’s problems, in particular, were far more egregious, as in “criminal.”
What would Reagan do? What would Clinton do? What would Bush do? No one could imagine any of them announcing their support for a nominee in such a problem. How can they expect loyalty in government from someone who was so disloyal during the appointments process? Obama was in a jam.
What is troubling and odd is that the New York Times, of all institutions, called him on it. It was the New York Times, not the FOX NEWS CHANNEL that awakened Obama from his stupor and forced him to realize the absurdity of his position and how corrupt it would be.
The fact is, these early stumbles count. They cannot be erased. They are part of history. And they show a pattern. There were three of them, not one, and they were all similar. Something in Obama’s vetting system is not working. One could make a good bet that there is “more gold in dem der hills,” that some of his other nominees may have tax problems and probably the biggest tax cheat of all is the person who is in charge of vetting, who is winking at these sort of things during the process.
“Oh, gee, we all have situations like that, Mr. Daschle, I wouldn’t worry about it. The President is so popular. And you will be so good at your job.”
There is something in Obama’s nature that projects integrity and goodwill and kindness and calmness but the facts in this case are deeply troubling. While Obama’s apology is refreshing, even disarming, keep in mind, it is only coming after the New York Times opinion page. Left to his own devices, would president Obama really want people who don’t even file their tax returns serving in his government?
Uh oh. This could be a long four years