Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Time for a Closer Look (from The Hill)

Time for a Closer Look
by Armstrong Williams

Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) will quietly ascend Capitol Hill tonight and face his former colleagues in a closed-door session regarding his future as President Obama's secretary of Health and Human Services.

Up until Friday, this was a foregone conclusion — the popular leader would be quickly confirmed as the nation's next top health policymaker. But evidence uncovered by ABC News and reported in The Hill of Sen. Daschle's tax evasion (unknowingly or not) is cause for concern.

I'll let Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and upper-chamber Republicans like Mitch McConnell (Ky.) decide if Daschle is worthy of this post. I'm more disturbed by the fact that yet another Obama administration nominee is under intense scrutiny for practices that normal Americans face and dutifully complete every day.

What's going on with the vetting process over at the White House? How many nominees now have unnecessarily brought some shame to Obama because they didn't own up to some basic problems that even my interns would red-flag?

First comes Commerce-nominee and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) for pay-to-play accusations, then the Treasury secretary nominee for tax evasion, and now Daschle?
These aren't posts for the Foreign Ag Service, folks. These are the highest echelons of power.

I won't even question the seriousness of the violations. Again, I'm more disturbed by the process. Why? Because the optics on these picks and subsequent reviews are very bad for the average American. We're supposed to be entering a new era of change, and with that, hope and optimism that runs straight to the Oval Office and President Obama. How can we expect him to stay focused and positive and on message when those around him are looking for exceptions, or worse, to look the other way?

I'd expect these sorts of shenanigans from a President Clinton (Hillary, that is), but America voted for better. And they deserve that “better.” So fix the process, or fix the team that's conducting the process.


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