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.
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
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.