Amazingly, although Obama has served over two whole weeks without any horrific scandals or crimes surfacing, the ever-vigilant political machine that is Washington, D.C. has found a new way to keep all eyes on scandal.
If Obama won’t commit the scandal that we all crave, then everyone else in Washington will. This week’s headlines all seem to have followed the same theme: someone new in Obama’s potential cabinet has stepped down due to scandal. Sadly, it’s not good scandal like we all got used to in the 90s. No cheap-looking hairdressers or illegitimate children grace the pages of the national news right now. Instead, we have all been treated to rather boring headlines of tax evasion and unemployment filings.
The obvious ridiculousness of public figures who don’t pay their taxes hardly needs to be noted. For someone like Tom Daschle to “accidentally” forget to pay $128,000 in taxes is like saying that a Tech student “forgot” that classes come with finals. It’s impossible to believe and should only get you a slap across the face for lack of creativity in coming up with excuses.
However, for Obama to argue that by stepping down from his appointment, Daschle was proving that “there aren’t two sets of rules” is just as insulting. There are clearly two sets of rules being applied here, but the categories are not prominent people and ordinary folks, as Obama would have us believe.
The categories are as follows: ordinary people who are allowed to make mistakes, and Obama associates who have to remember to kiss three babies and donate to charity before their morning coffee so that they can move on to their perfect performances at work and then drive home in their electric cars to happily eat with their argument and affair-free families.
Of course, Daschle’s tax fraud (yes, that is what I will be calling it) was not a mistake. But consider other potential cabinet potentates that have already stepped down. Most recently there was Timothy Keithner, who paid $34,000 in income tax late, and Nancy Killefer, who didn’t pay exactly $946.69 dollars in unemployment tax on household help. Even before this tax-fraud step-down frenzy started, the Obama team was cutting its losses when potential allies became political risks.
There was the case of Samantha Powers, a Harvard professor and foreign policy specialist who was initially under consideration for a position in the State department and was a high-level advisor in Obama’s initial campaign. Powers made a derogatory comment about a one Mrs. Clinton during an interview in London, and almost immediately stepped down from the campaign and disassociated with Obama almost entirely.
The standards of perfection levied against the politicos in Washington are attainable, and in a theoretical world we would hold all politicians to them. In the real world, however, certain sins need to be ignored, or at least have punishments that suit the crime. In no other profession would tax fraud cause you to lose your job; it would just result in the IRS making your life miserable for the next decade or so.
In no other place than Washington would your personal life dictate your professional outcomes. It would be called discrimination or sexual harassment, and you would smack your employer with a lawsuit. The era of responsibility espoused by Obama is starting to look like it could deserve a second title: the era of the second-best leader. No, our leaders should not be given free reign to flaunt the law, but at the same time, when the offense has nothing to do with their field of expertise, are we not sacrificing competency for a clean record?
Would it not be better to have the most skilled health policy official managing that sector of the economy, to have the most talented budget personnel managing our budget, and not that other guy, the one who remembered to save all his lunch receipts and mail them to his accountant but who may or may not have any idea what he is doing?