Well, it's been about 15 days since the inauguration, and the "appointing" process has already seen a few slip-ups. They aren't scandals on any grandiose scale, but for a President who spent his campaign focusing on the importance of "ethics" in Washington, they are a bit worrisome. On Tuesday, Tom Daschle became yet another appointee to Obama's cabinet to step down due to misdemeanors and allegations of illegal action. Daschle failed to pay taxes on an expensive limo and driver, and failed to report a hefty $80,000 in consulting income on which he owed taxes. On the same day, Nancy Killefer withdrew her candidacy as chief performance officer due to a "personal tax issue." Recently, Bill Richardson, whom Obama had nominated for Commerce Secretary, stepped down after he was named in an influence-peddling investigation (translation: allegedly, Richardson tried to influence government officials in order to help his own private business pursuits. He maintained his innocence but stepped down anyway.) Sadly, the list goes on. Timothy Geithner, who was confirmed as Treasury Secretary last week, also has a shaky past with the IRS. Furthermore, we all remember Obama rallying against lobbyists who have held or hold government posts - he practically built his campaign around fighting that in order to "clean" Washington. So, when I heard that Obama appointed William Lynn to a high post in the Pentagon, I was perplexed - aren't we talking about the same William Lynn who was a lobbyist from Raytheon, a homeland security firm? And now he's in the Pentagon? Huh.
Obama! What's going on here?
True, Obama wins points for actually having these people step-down, and admitting that he "screwed up," at least in Daschle's case. Perhaps the real problem lies in those whose responsibility it is to screen potential appointees. Either way, Obama has been coined the president of "hope" and "change." He has been compared to Abraham Lincoln, who united a divided country, and Roosevelt, who saved our economy with the New Deal. One of the most-used comparisons, of course, is to JFK, whose leadership, winning smile, and relaxed and confident "presidential" look seems to be alive in Barack Obama. Obama also had something else. His ability to rally the youth together behind him while giving hope to a nation at war and with a failing economy is evidence of his grassroots history.
I remember back on election night being interviewed by Sam Donaldson on ABC. He asked me what would happen to all of these enthusiastic youths if Obama becomes a business-as-usual president. I considered for a moment and realized how crucial it is that Obama stays true to his campaign promises. The youth in this country are constantly being chastised for being disillusioned and apathetic about politics. Obama gave them a reason not to be. We voted - in record numbers. Now, though, he is less than 20 days in and already his "ethics" and "clean Washington" stances are being called into question. Obama is not the first president - by far - that has dealt with a few scandals early on. But for a President who criticized his former opponents for being "bogged down" by Washington and not having strong enough ethics, it is immensely important for Obama to stay true to his roots and not get bogged down himself.