To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Two NYT articles.

Daschle Withdraws as Health Nominee

Daschle Ends Bid for Post; Obama Concedes Mistake

There are some interesting sentences in both of these articles.

This is what caught my eye.

Obama told NBC "I'm frustrated with myself" for unintentionally sending a message that there are "two sets of rules" for paying taxes, "one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks."

"I take responsibility for this mistake," he told Fox News.

Well, I don't know if Obama said "unintentionally" or if that's helpful editorializing on the part of the NYT.

But back during the campaign, and up till now, we've heard about how this was going to be the most ethical administration ever, that business as usual was a thing of the past, blah blah. My question is, what did Pres. Obama think that meant? What did that mean he would have to not do? (for instance, appoint whomever he pleased regardless of whether or not it looked right, let alone whether there was a real concern.) Did he count the cost? It appears not. The no-lobbyist promise is already acknowledged to be a casualty of the suddenly-discovered reality of governing. Look at this: Obama spokesman defends ethics standards

Despite the tax problems faced by high-level nominees, and the exceptions made to the no-lobbyists pledge, President Barack Obama's spokesman is defending the administration's ethical standards.

Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday, "The bar that we set is the highest that any administration in the country has ever set."


During a briefing filled with questions about Tom Daschle's decision to withdraw from consideration to be Health and Human Services secretary, Gibbs pointed to experts who describe the administration's ethics rules as the strongest in history.

Rules are worthless if they're ignored when they get in the way. It's like people who think they have a quality program because they have a nice shiny quality manual sitting on the shelf. Or a safety program because they have hard hats lined up in a cabinet. You START with the rules. Anybody can have rules. That's the easy part. What matters is that you APPLY them, consistently, even when it's inconvenient.

He also said those experts recognized that Obama would need to make exceptions to his pledge to run an administration free of former lobbyists.

Obama's choice to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department recently lobbied for military contractor Raytheon. And his choice as deputy secretary at Health and Human Services, lobbied through most of last year as an anti-tobacco advocate.

Once again, what do these people mean when they say they are or will be ethical? Do they even know what they mean? Do they go through any kind of thought-experiment: in situation X, where we have choices p and q, we'll do p. We'll draw the line here, but not there. We'll accept this but not that. It seems to me it's all look-good crap that no one thought through or takes seriously - they don't realize there's anything TO take seriously. Maybe I'm being too harsh. I sure hope so but I have a sinking feeling that I'm not. I wonder if there's always been a tacet "if you believe me you're a sucker" whenever they've made these promises. Because that whole "unintentional" message of there being two sets of rules is EXACTLY the kind of thing that ethical people don't have to worry about sending because for them there are not two sets of rules. We have a tax-cheater overseeing the IRS. How cool is that.

Words are cheap. You can say you're going to be ethical, or you can just be ethical. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course, but the first without the second makes you a hypocrite.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

Very astute. I concur.