Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Wednesday, February 4, 2009


UPDATE: From Andrew Sullivan's blog:

03 Feb 2009 07:31 pm
He Said It!
It has taken Obama
two weeks to say something that George W. Bush couldn't manage to say in eight years: "I screwed up." This is change we can really believe in.

How refreshing.

We have a president who doesn't hesitate to take responsibility for a screw-up. Even though he personally did not screw up.

And yet this is news, since we've been used to a presient who never admitted making errors in judgment or any errors at all. (In the last month or so, Bush did say he regreted the "Mission Accomplished" statement and the "Bring 'em On" comment, but that was it. Those were his only two "mistakes" in 8 years.)

(Remember when Bush was asked in a presser if he had made any mistakes? He said he couldn't think of any. Imagine that. He'd been president for quite some time and hadn't made one mistake!)

The Obama administration claimed that it would have the most
ethical administration yet. It put together a 63-point questionnaire for its top
jobs that at first was criticized for being too intrusive.

Despite that, the White House ended up promoting two men with tax
stains on their records. First, it came to light that the eventual Treasury
secretary, Timothy Geithner, needed to pay $43,000 in back taxes and penalties.
That came from unmet payroll taxes while he was working for the International
Monetary Fund — and until pressured he was going to leave unpaid some of that
money because the statute of limitations had expired.

Then came what Daschle described as an “unintentional” slipup on
charitable contributions deducted in error and overlooking a car-and-driver
service given to him for three years.

Ethicists note that in anonymous surveys large numbers of Americans
confess to cutting corners on their taxes. The IRS estimates a tax gap between
what should be paid and what is paid of $345 billion a year.

Yet in surveys, people often rationalize their underpayments by citing
their notion that the rich don’t pay their part.

Certainly, Daschle is not alone. Michael Josephson of the Josephson
Institute of Ethics said the country needs to separate “moral misdemeanors from
moral felonies.”

McClatchy News Service

It's over. Daschle's gone and now the Obama administration has to choose someone else to head HHS.

I hope the vetting is better.

More from Sullivan:

A reader writes:

I had the same reaction. I happened to walk into the room and hear the words, "...and I've got to own up to my mistake..." and I immediately thought: Grownups in the White House. Hallelujah.

Furthermore I just so appreciate the way our President takes everything in stride. Even this. No bluster. No defensiveness. It is what it is and it has to be done, it has to be said. Instead of telling us about what hard work presiding is, he is just doing it.

Once again, the predominant feeling is relief. Even in the midst of this.

There are two possible reactions to all this. The first is to jump up and down and yell "See! Change my ass!" While I certainly do not discourage such healthy expressions of civic realism, and am as happy as MoDo to see the Obamaites bump down to earth, I'm not sure this is the most revealing thing of the past two weeks.

For me, that is simply a relieved expectation that a) this president understands that change is a process in which other actors and interlocutors need to be heard from; b) his team seems able to take constructive criticism and adjust; and c) this president is not fazed by much.


Dave Miller said...

Unfortunately, this points out either a flaw in the vetting process, a blind side politically, inexperience, or an unwillingness to live up to his own rhetoric.

All of which are troubling to me.

He has called for exceptions to his lobbyist ban also, as I am sure you are aware.

I am with you on his mea culpa. Refreshing.

dmarks said...

Did he ever admit the mistake on Timothy Geithner?

Actually, I'm not so concerned about seeing the President eat crow on this: I'd just rather he had withdrawn the Geithner nomination when it came out that he was a tax-crook too.

Or even ask for Geithner's resignation now, in keeping with the new policy that tax cheats are not wanted in the cabinet.

Arthurstone said...

Case by case. Daschle & Geithner have hugely different situations which to the term 'tax crook' doesn't equally apply.

Many enjoy using terms such as Marxist, socialist, liberal & democrat interchangeably despite the obvious differences.

Same with 'tax crook'.

One-sized almost never fits all.

And it is refreshing to hear an actual apology from the C in C. The last one felt he never made one.

Heh. Heh n

Ruth said...

Daschle had a huge commitment to establishing public health care, there was no way he was going to get approval from the recidivist wing. If President Obama can find some one who will work as hard for us as Daschle, this will work out well - but it would have been a real public benefit to have a functioning HHS head working for the kind of health care benefits the civilized world has enjoyed for a lot of years now.

dmarks said...

Arthur: Yes, there is a big difference. Geithner was nominated for Treasury, which makes his tax cheating all the more worse than Daschle's tax cheating for HHS.

"Tax crook" does fit both.

Ruth: Working hard for a federal takeover of health care is not working hard for us. It is working agaisnt us. Health care is too important to have the government take over and destroy. It is working agaisnt us. But I am sure Daschle would have sailed through if it wasn't found he was a tax crook.

There is little to enjoy with "benefits" that the "the civilized world" has, such as denying and rationing health care, turning health care into one single unaccountable monopoly, and the months-long waits for things that in the US can take mere days.

I'm all for improving government health care for the poor and indigent. This is part of a decent welfare program. But I strongly resist the idea of the Feds taking over and degrading the rest of the health care system.

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

I'm happy to hear that he admitted mistakes too. Americans can be very understanding if our leaders just admit making errors. I mean good grief, he's only been in office two weeks!!

As for Geithner? If he was such a horrible choice then why did Republicans vote for him? I heard several Republicans in Congress say he was a great choice.

TRUTH101 said...

I hate it but I'm closer to Dmarks on the Daschle thing HBW. Even in my limited roles as tresurer for a few organizations, I knew when something wasn't on the up and up. Senator Daschle should have known. He caused embarrassment for President Obama. I'm loyal to the core to my Democratic party. Tom shold have backed out long ago, or brought this up long before he was nomonated.

Arthurstone said...

I like the distinction between 'moral misdemeanor' and 'moral felony'. It's hard for some to grasp I know.

But in a world where such as Eliot Abrams can find employment in the highest levels of government the Geithner flap is small potatoes indeed.

dmarks said...

I'm glad that President Obama has now risen to the ethical standards of the Clinton Administration, which pulled the plug on two tax-crook choices for Attorney General.

With the Geithner matter, Pres. Obama had unfortunately lowered the bar, and some people defended the choice even saying that in tough times like this, we should let these ethical considerations slide.

I look forward to him raising the bar, even higher.

Arthurstone said...

Geithner had his committee hearings and Republicans and Democrats voted to confirm. The entire Senate will likely vote to confirm. Republicans and Democrats alike.

What fourteen days into the first Obama term?

He's doing okay.

dmarks said...

Ah yes, I see. Geithner is a "good" tax crook, instead of a "bad" tax crook. A distinction you would probably not make if he were Bush or McCain appointee.

But hey, he's a crook, but as long as he is not as bad as Abrams, right?

Arthurstone said...

Beyond the obvious fact that there is bipartisan support for the idea Geithner isn't actually a 'crook' at all there is your mistaken presumption of how I would respond to gaffes by Bush or (in a real flight of fancy) McCain in a similar situation. Sorry to disappoint you but I've never cared one way or the other who a President selects to serve in his cabinet. It's their call.

I only get interested in judicial appointments.

I only have so much interest in US politics. Oddly enough there are worlds to consider.


TAO said...

Tax Cheats....

Lets just accept the fact that Washington is just full of them.

In fact any form of income involving 1099's rather than W-2's is preferred because it opens the door for tax cheating.

I would say it is fair to assume that tax cheating is rather mundane in the whelm of morality because the sin is getting caught not actually the cheating.

I have been watching the Cheney and Gonzales interviews and THERE are some major moral issues involved in their thinking...

Basically everything is moral to those two if at least one of the following is present:
1. President orders it
2. I think it is a good

As far as moral issues their thinking trumps tax cheating any day.

Anonymous said...

dmarks, you crack me up. I sit back and read everyone's comments and most are willing to give and take, debating intelligently back and forth but your posts all basically say.... no, I'm right, no really, I'm right, I'm right, by the way, I'm right, I forgot to tell you I'm right. That and, nu uh. Listen, nobody is perfect, not even you. And as far as setting the bar, Bush set it so low it had nowhere to go but up.

dmarks said...

Anonymous: Thank you for the meaningless insult devoid of any content to back it up. That is because you can't back it up, since I've never said that or anything that can be paraphrased as that.

In regards to this particular discussion, I suppose you are denying that Geithner is a tax cheat. It's hard to guess, really, since you were terribly unclear about what you were trying to say. That is the only way I can see you have an issue here.

But glad you are laughing, though.

"That and, nu uh"

Is that Swahili?

"Listen, nobody is perfect, not even you"

So let's pack the cabinet with crooks because nobody is perfect. I think you are the only one making such an argument.

Anonymous said...

I was referencing the hysterical position that all Republicans take about their own flaws; that they have none. Which would partially explain why the GOP is dysfunctional. I was merely making a broad observation about your debating style, which is merely, I'm right and you're wrong. I wasn't referencing Tim Geithner or any of the cabinet picks. Just you all over this blog and others where I've read your comments. I'm just saying, you're predictable.

dmarks said...

"which is merely, I'm right and you're wrong." I have yet to do that.

"I wasn't referencing Tim Geithner or any of the cabinet picks."

It's pretty clear now that you really aren't referring to anything.

Try something substantive?

Anonymous said...

I will if you will.

TRUTH101 said...

Relax Anon guy. Dmarks has a habit of using insinuation as an argument. He insinuated foreign outsourced labor was "better" than American Workers. I called him on it because I am an American Worker. I sais business outsourced for Cheaper labor. There is nothing you can't make cheaper by using cheap labor and cheap parts. Dmarks made some silly attempt to justify his attack on American Workers but that didn't fool me any more the any of his comments here and elsewhere fooled you.

Myself said...

"How refreshing."

He said that he made a mistake only ONE day after he said that He Stood Behind Him'
Until the pressure got to hot!That wasn't refreshing, it was hypicritical

dmarks said...

Truth: "He insinuated foreign outsourced labor was "better" than American Workers"

Sometimes it is. There is nothing inherently superior in the American worker in every single job category. To think so would be jingoistic. Sometimes workers elsewhere do a better job, so things get outsourced. Outsourcing happens a lot inside the US too, in situations where some American workers in distant states do a certain thing better than "local" American workers. And yes, if someone does the exact same job but charges less for it, they are better for that job.

"Dmarks made some silly attempt to justify his attack on American Workers"

I never attacked American workers. I know they are better at some things, worse at others. That is a fact, not an insinuation, and not an attack. Sometimes they are so good that foreign companies outsource and hire American workers in the U.S.

The "attack on American Workers" is an "insinuation" much more than me pointing out the fact that sometimes foreign workers do better jobs at things than American ones.

TRUTH101 said...

If you're referring to things like Swiss watches and other expensive items, I will give your point some creedence Dmarks. But the everyday items we use like tshirts or sneakers. Textile jobs that provided a living for hundreds of thousands of families. Toy manufacturers. I could go on but you should get the point. These jobs were shipped overseas because in China and Indonesia and Vietnam companies get access to people that must work for ridiculously low wages. They left because it was cheaper. To think that Americans benefit from this because a pack of socks is cheaper so the guy who's job was outsourced and has to work a job paying $5 a hour less gets his socks a few cents less is nuts.