According to a Wall Street Journal report today, CIA director-designate Leon Panetta has received more than $700,000 in speaking and consulting fees since 2008, some of the money apparently coming from troubled financial organizations and banks, with one in particular coming from a firm steeped in national security.
This is just the latest in a whirlwind of nominee-related problems plaguing the fledgling Obama administration.
For me, the problem is not necessarily the speaking fees, as many a Washington insider make money from consulting and speeches following the end of a run as a government official. Heck, if someone was willing to help me pay my bills, I’d be happy to drone on and on about conservatism to almost anyone willing to listen.
For me, the problem isn’t even that the same administration pushing salary caps on American executives has embraced one of their own who made $700,000 at the podium last year, or even that President Barack Obama has, once again, tapped a Washington insider to fill a crucial spot in his administration. After all, on both accounts, there’s something to be said for insiders and the valuable experience they bring — especially with such a green (in a non-environmental sense) chief executive in the Oval Office.
The problem with Panetta, along with Daschle and with Clinton and with so many other picks is that presidential candidate Barack Obama promised from day one to provide the American people with “change” they can believe in, with a new approach to governing in our nation’s capital, yet President Barack Obama has been choosing advisers who directly countermand that very simple and fundamental tenet of his presidential campaign. The problem here is that presidential candidate Barack Obama promised that lobbyists would have no ties with his administration, yet President Obama’s picks for CIA director, Middle East envoy and Director of Health and Human Services all have close ties with lobbyists, or have advised lobbyist groups as to how to effectively work in the halls of Capitol Hill.
Honestly, other than the potential conflict of interest with the national security-related firm and a few other details, unless this is an indication of some sort of deeper relationships or quid pro quo arrangements or just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Leon Panetta and transparency, I have no significant problem with the way he has paid the proverbial rent since last serving in Washington. After all, as far as we know, he paid his taxes. My problem is that, during the course of his campaign, Obama made several very specific, very fundamental pledges — yet his actions since capturing the presidency have been diametrically opposed to those promises.
The double-talk and double standards, the “do-as-we-say-but-not-as-we-do” attitude among our elected officials, must stop. As far as I can see, the only way to stop it is to make as many people as possible aware of as many such indiscretions, and let the people effect true change in Washington.