In his NY Times op-ed piece Monday entitled "The Separation of Politics and State," Richard Painter shines a spotlight on what he suggests is the Obama administration's unethical conflating of partisan politics and policy. And he ought to know a thing or two about ethics, or a lack thereof, as he served from 2005-2007 as George W. Bush's chief White House ethics lawyer.
"It's unfortunate," Painter writes, "that his [Obama's] White House staff remains so deeply immersed in partisan politics, as demonstrated by the administration's offering a presidential appointment to try to dissuade Representative Joe Sestak from running in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary against Senator Arlen Specter. There were similar discussions with Andrew Romanoff, a former speaker of the Colorado House, who is challenging Senator Michael Bennet."
First, there is nothing illegal or politically ground-breaking in Obama's supposed job offers to Sestak and Romanoff. Presidents from John Quincy Adams to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan allegedly did the same (as I'm sure every other president has in one fashion or another), and so did the Bushies in 2004 in purportedly dangling the Secretary of Agriculture post to Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson if he agreed not to run for re-election.
But more critical to point out are the many truly ethical transgressions, and perhaps illegal acts, committed by the Bushies between 2000-2008 (and I'm not even talking about the robbery of Al Gore's presidency). A few episodes below:
Back in 2006, Bush's Justice Department engaged in the unprecedented midterm dismissal of seven United States Attorneys. The firings prompted a Congressional investigation into whether the Bushies fired these lawyers in an effort to obstruct the investigations of Republican politicians, or, because they failed to initiate investigations that would damage Democrats.
Another example is Bush/Cheney/Scooter Libby's despicable, unpatriotic act of outing CIA agent Valerie Plame because her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, wrote a NY Times op-ed piece refuting the Bush administration's claim that Saddam/Iraq was seeking to purchase yellowcake uranium in Niger. In his piece, "What I didn't find in Africa," Wilson concluded that the Bushies sought to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat." As punishment for his actions, his wife, Plame, was exposed as a covert operative. Her CIA career was therefore over, and her life, and that of those she worked undercover with, were put in danger.
And as "Bush's Brain" Karl Rove so cavalierly demonstrated for eight years, no administration in history blatantly used its political apparatus to influence policy more than the Bushies. This includes sending U.S. troops to die in an unjust war; illegal wiretappings and domestic spying; and obstruction of 9/11 commission investigations.
So it's a bit dubious and unsurprisingly hypocritical for Painter, who was in the thick of some of this political chicanery in Rove's West Wing, to attack Obama and use his administration as the poster-child for partisan opportunism. Funny what short memories the Bushies have.
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