Do As I Say, Not As I Do
In the flurry of news coverage since the historic election of Barack Obama, the American public has been largely shielded from the promises broken in the Obama administration.
We have seen pronouncements of new plans for the economy that the president claims fulfill his sweeping promises of change he made to the American people. However, we have seen little coverage of the many issues -- on matters of taxation, the size and role of government, his prescriptions for the ailing economy -- where Obama's rhetoric simply doesn't match the reality of his presidency.
Case in point: Obama's campaign declarations regarding ethics and the major reforms he would bring to our nation's government. President Obama famously said in many of his campaign speeches: "I will launch the most sweeping ethics reform in history to make the White House the people's house."
In Manchester, NH, he said, "We need a president who sees government not as a tool to enrich well-connected friends and high-priced lobbyists, but as the defender of fairness and opportunity for every American."
In his inaugural address, Obama called for a "new era of responsibility."
The subsequent appointments by the president are classic example of Obama saying one thing to large crowds and doing quite another in office. He has named many officials who have had to drop out of consideration or who have had clouds of ethical controversies hanging over their head before they even stepped foot into their new offices.
Twenty years ago, in early 1989, another new president was making appointments to his cabinet. That president was the first President Bush. The newly elected president nominated Senator John Tower as his secretary of defense. The media went wild over allegations of Tower's perceived drinking and womanizing. Even Senator Ted Kennedy dared to jump in the fray, voting against Tower along party lines with every other Democrat in the Senate. It was front page news. You could not turn on a radio or TV newscast without hearing the reports.
Although some of Obama's appointees have similarly made the front pages of America's papers — namely Tom Daschle — stories that aggregate the parade of nominees brought down by ethical challenges are stunningly absent from our media sources. The group that you will rarely find mentioned en masse includes:
— Obama's first choice for secretary of commerce, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who was forced to withdraw because he is facing a federal investigation involving allegations he pressured officials to award government contracts to campaign contributors.
— Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who admitted he failed to pay more than $40,000 in back taxes and interest.
— Jon Cannon, nominated to be deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency, who pulled his name after it was disclosed that EPA auditors had accused a non-profit he had governed as a board member of mismanaging $25 million in taxpayer funds.
— Chas Freeman, an Obama nominee for chair of the National Intelligence Council, who withdrew for a host of reasons: anti-Israel comments he made, the disclosure that Saudi royals financed Freeman's think tank, the fact that he served on the board of a Chinese state oil company, numerous extreme comments he made concerning everything from 9-11 to Chinese suppression of dissidents.
— Attorney General Eric Holder, who recommended and supported President Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Rich was indicted in 1983 on 65 counts of tax evasion and related matters, and his ex-wife had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Clinton.
— Wall Street lawyer H. Rodgin Cohen, who was forced to withdraw from Obama's nomination for deputy U.S. treasury secretary. Cohen was named American Lawyer magazine's Dealmaker of the Year for his role negotiating bank bailouts. The magazine says he was in the room "when Fannie Mae was nationalized."
— Obama's new choice for chief information officer in the White House, Vivek Kundra, who took leave from his job after the FBI raided his former office where he was the city of Washington D.C.'s chief technology officer. One of his former top aides has been arrested in an investigation of a kickback scandal in his office.
— Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who is still in office after it was disclosed that her husband had more than $6,000 in former tax liens against his business. The couple claimed they were unaware of the liens.
— Nancy Killefer, who withdrew as Obama's chief performance officer after it was disclosed she had a tax lien against her in Washington for failing to pay unemployment compensation taxes.
— And last but not least, who can forget former Senate Democrat Majority Leader Tom Daschle's scuttled nomination for health and human services secretary after the disclosure he did not pay more than $128,000 in back taxes and almost $12,000 in interest? A fascinating disclosure regarding a man who voted multiple times against tax cuts.
Obama also vowed to end the revolving door of lobbyists. His campaign website still states, "As president, he will close the revolving door between political appointments and K-street lobbying." It also contains the text of a speech he gave in Spartanburg, SC, on November 3, 2007, where he said lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House."
But those words appear to be a promise that he had no intention of fulfilling, if one is to judge by his actions since he took office.
— Ron Klain, Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff, is a former lobbyist from the law firm O'Melveny & Myers. His clients included Fannie Mae, the same entity that pushed the subprime loans propelling our nation into economic crisis.
— Attorney General Eric Holder was a registered lobbyist for clients like Global Crossing. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was a registered lobbyist for the NEA, the national teachers' union.
— William Lynn (deputy defense secretary), Mark Patterson (chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner), Mona Sutphen (deputy White House chief of staff), Cecilia Munoz (White House director of intergovernmental affairs), and Patrick Gaspard (White House political affairs director) are all registered lobbyists.
The list of former registered lobbyists now working for Obama goes on and on.
Many have pointed out that it is next to impossible to staff an administration without lobbyists. After all, some of these registered lobbyists are hired based on their expertise -- in this case, promoting liberal causes on the president's agenda.
Still, ending that "revolving door" was the president's promise and the basis on which he asked for voters' support.
The behavior shouldn't come as a surprise when examining Obama's political roots in Chicago, the home of America's most indicted and convicted political class. Obama not only endorsed impeached former Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2002 and 2006, he served as an adviser to Blagojevich in 2002. David Axelrod, Obama's chief political strategist and a West Wing employee, worked for Blagojevich's past campaigns. Michael Strautman, now the White House's chief of staff to the assistant to the president, was legislative director and even legal counsel to Blagojevich while he was in Congress.
Apparently the new era of responsibility was to begin in Washington after Mr. Obama left Illinois.
By the way, Strautmanis not only worked for Blagojevich, he is also a former lobbyist with the Association of Trial Lawyers of America — representing a violation of not one, but two Obama pledges.
Do as I say, not as I do ... this may not be the change 53 percent of America bargained for when they voted in November.