On the campaign trails and during the debates, presidential candidate Barack Obama argued the power of lobbyists had to be curbed and the Washington political culture changed. I said at the time, and I quote myself accurately, "lotsa luck, fella."
Nary a honeymoon, not the first 100 days, but just 15 short days into his new administration, President Obama finds himself strangled by the same old Washington two step. Not that he hasn't tried. And, yes, he admits he "screwed up."
His nomination of Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary did a bump and grind with Senate approval but he lost his appointments for Health and Human Services, White House Performance Officer and Commerce Secretary while waiving the lobbyist restrictions for two senior positions in the Department of Defense.
It turned out Geithner, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, and Nancy Killefer tabbed for the performance job all failed to pay back taxes. Bill Richardson withdrew from Commerce because of a federal investigation involving a play for pay scheme back in his home state of New Mexico. Even Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, his new Commerce appointee, is suspect although he denies any knowledge of a former staffer taking bribes from lobbyists.
As film clips of these nominees flashed on the screen, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show asked "who the hell is vetting these guys?" Up flashes a mug shot of impeached Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. "Oh," quips Stewart in his inevitable surprised style.
Stealing a page from Bill Maher's HBO show, I offer one New Rule of my own.
Select the best and brightest person available with no felony convictions. That's it. We're dealing with politicians, after all. Didn't pay your taxes? No problem. Pay them with penalty and interest and collect your $200 when you pass "Go."
It was said that Geithner was too valuable not to be appointed because of his expertise on the economy. Enough senators ate their misgivings and approved him.
Daschle was said to be the perfect person for Health and Human Services Secretary and a seat in the White House as sort of a health czar ramrodding a universal health plan through Congress. He was. His loss is a blow of which the Obama administration may never recover in its quest for improved health coverage for Americans of all stripes. The most qualified name dropped so far for HHS is Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a doctor, who designed his state's universal coverage health program. But he knows diddly squat about Washington's inner sanctum.
The history of failed and confirmed presidential nominees is filled with nonsense driven by partisan politics, a petty press and pious public.
Sen. John Towers was rejected for Defense Secretary because he was considered a drunk and womanizer.
Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas complained he was a victim of a political lynching when Anita Hill claimed he sexually harassed her.
Would Bill Bennett have been confirmed for Education Secretary had it been known he was a compulsive gambler?
The list is endless. Every person has his flaws. Unless they impede him for the job he's appointed, get on with it.
Even Barack Obama is not without some personal flaws. He admits to being disorganized, fails to make his bed and smokes five cigarettes a day.