Given the stunningly clueless vetting of cabinet and other selections thus far made by the president for, among others, Secretary of the Treasury (Timothy Geithner), Secretary of Health and Human Services (Tom Daschle), Secretary of Commerce (Bill Richardson), and the nation’s first “Chief Performance Officer” (Nancy Killifer, in a role which leaves me wondering why we need another government employee to eradicate redundancy), even the propagandists at Pravda on the Hudson (a.k.a. The New York Times) must be scratching their liberal heads and quietly wondering amongst themselves: “what the heck is going on here?” Is this “change,” or is it more like a bad parody of the Keystone Kops?
Of course, the “heck” going on here–and the common theme joining all of these folks in a very sticky thread–is the fact that all of them knew or should have known of either the “cronyism/pay-to-play” skeleton in the closet, as with Richardson, or the “tax-man” skeleton in the basement, as with all the others, long before accepting the nomination of the president to serve in any particular official capacity. And yet each, with or without the knowledge of the new president, arrogantly pushed forward in the expectation that nothing could derail their candidacies. They were, after all, chosen by the Chosen One himself.
Take Daschle, for example. For someone who had such a hard time realizing that he hadn’t paid his taxes to the IRS, the former senator seems to have had no trouble at all counting the number of zeroes behind the integers he received for “speaking fees” and “consultations” from hospital and insurance industry big-wigs and lobbyists over the past two years.
In fact, Daschle collected nearly a quarter of a million dollars in fees in the last two years speaking to leaders of the same industry the president wanted him to “reform” as the administration’s secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, when it came time to properly reporting to the IRS–like everyone else is supposed to do–he innocently “forgot.” Suddenly, however, when word of his absent-mindedness leaked out, he had a “tax epiphany,” resulting in the preparation of amended returns and payment of nearly $140,000.00 in back taxes and interest. No word yet on penalties.
Yesterday, as reported here at America’s Right and beyond, Daschle withdrew his candidacy and Obama accepted the withdrawal “with sadness and regret.”
Really? That sounds a lot like the species of “regret” expressed by a former president when the truth about his extremely close mentoring of a particular White House intern was . . . exposed. In this case, Daschle expressed the desire to “. . . not be a distraction.” Funny how it is with these folks that, only after their problems are made public, do they become “distractions” and foster a come-to-Jesus moment and the sudden need to come clean.
Memo to Tom Daschle: How about declining the nomination in the first place on the grounds that you know the facts, if publicized, would derail you and cause problems for the president? Especially after that eloquent, fiery speech you delivered when you served as Democrat Minority Leader in the House, urging “no mercy” in the prosecution of tax cheats, don’t you think that declining the nomination to begin with would be the right thing to do?
A day late and a dollar short, Mr. Obama said in a CNN interview today, just one day removed from praising Daschle as an integral and essential part of his plan to reform healthcare in America.
“I think I screwed up. And I take responsibility for it and we’re going to make sure we fix it so it doesn’t happen again.”
Doesn’t happen again? More on that later. In regard to this issue — at least he didn’t vote “present.”
Now, take Richardson for another example. A few months ago, as he basked in the glow and ego rush of his nomination to become Secretary of Commerce, he knew–or should have known–of the potential radioactivity of the New Mexico federal grand jury probe into how his political donors landed a lucrative State of New Mexico transportation contract on his watch as governor. Of course, when news of that little petard exploded on the scene, he too withdrew his candidacy, but well after the probe became public.
Then, of course there’s also yesterday’s announcement by Nancy Killifer, the president’s nominee to become the federal government’s first “Chief Performance Officer,” whatever that is. Just what we need in our cash-strapped government — another government official on the balance sheet, charged with eliminating redundancy in government. Since her position as Director of the Department of the Redundancy Department is not a cabinet post and thus does not require Senate confirmation, perhaps the thought was that Killifer’s tax problems–failure to pay unemployment taxes on household help, resulting in a $900 Washington D.C. municipal tax lien, a matter of public record–would be under the radar. Wrong. Once again, an administration nominee pulled out, not because of a failure to pay taxes everyone else is supposed to pay, but because that omission became public. If anything, I guess Obama and Daschle and Killifer learned from former President Bill Clinton that it is better to report income and claim a $5.00 charitable deduction on your silk underwear than to not report at all.
Oh, and for those of you counting, the Daschle “screw-up”–the one we were assured wouldn’t “happen again”–indeed happened again when Killifer was nominated (January 7, 2009), after Daschle was nominated (December 11, 2008). So, that which the president assured the nation “wouldn’t happen again” repeated itself less than 30 days later. Now that’s change we can believe in!
Meanwhile, don’t forget Timothy Geithner, confirmed as Treasury Secretary despite his failure to pay his taxes in a timely manner; you know, like everyone else is supposed to–never mind. He too failed to timely pay some $34,000.00 in self-employment taxes on money he earned from 2001 to 2004 while working for the International Monetary Fund, according to materials released by the Senate Finance Committee. Geithner paid some of the taxes in 2006, after an IRS audit discovered the discrepancy for taxes paid in 2003 and 2004.
However, as reported by the Associated Press, “. . . it wasn’t until much later–days before Obama tapped him to head the Treasury Department late last year–that Geithner paid back most of the taxes, incurred in 2001 and 2002.” Geithner did so after the president’s crack transition team found that the nominee had made the same tax mistake his first two years at the IMF as the one the IRS found he made during his last two years there. This, my friends, is the guy running the department which overseas the very IRS to which he “forgot” to meet his obligations.
When thinking of Geithner, one is reminded of the anecdote where the police are questioning a punk about a stabbing victim, punctured multiple times, lying in front of him in the street: “I was just standing there cleaning my fingernails, and this guy came running around the corner and fell right into the knife. Ten times.”
(Of course, Sen. Judd Gregg, the Republican asked by Obama to fill the Commerce Secretary seat vacated by embattled New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, does not seem at this time to have tax problems. Seeing that he’s a Republican, however, I’m sure we’ll hear about it if he does. — Jeff)
For a president and his “people” to goof on properly vetting even one cabinet member is an embarrassment. But this nomination phenomenon is evolving into something new, something even beyond the Keystone Kops or Inspector Clouseau, something approaching farce. This borders either on monumental ineptitude or profoundly hypocritical arrogance. Either way, if this is a sampling of how the new administration operates with its friends, one can only cringe at how it will operate with the nation’s enemies. Yes, Virginia, the brutal truth is that even under the new administration, the nation still has enemies out there.
Ineptitude and its kissing cousin, inexperience, are precisely what the nation cannot afford these days. After all, remember what then vice presidential candidate Joe Biden assured the nation if Obama were to be elected. Thinking of the new president’s failure to properly assess those in his inner circle, as well as his judgment of character seen in the crooks and criminal he has surrounded him with throughout his life and political career, I certainly feel safer knowing that Obama will be the one to read and react to his dealings with our enemies. I feel safer — do you?
Over and beyond all of this, would anyone care to estimate the temperature of the journalistic magma which would be spewing from every orifice in the mainstream media’s overbloated persona if everyone involved in the bungled nominations had been Republicans? Or, if instead of Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain had made these nominations? That’s right, Virginia, it would be game, set and match in the first five nanoseconds, proving once again that the mainstream press and the Democrats, under the so-called “leadership” promised from the new administration, have given stunning new meaning to the term “hypocrisy.” And this doesn’t even get into the Blagojevich escapade.
Sadly, when all is said and done, the new administration’s signature soundbite, formerly the idyllic “Change We Can Believe In,” now seems to be “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask instead if you can get away with bamboozling your country.”
Rick Saunders is a freelance writer who splits his time between endeavors in southern California and the American southwest. He began writing for America’s Right in December 2008.