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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

Obama Makes a Bad Choice, America Trembles

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There has been much justifiable criticism over President Barack Obama's selection of former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn to be Deputy Secretary of Defense. It's one of those "What was he thinking??" moments. Hours after Mr. Obama laid down impressive standards against lobbyists in his administration, he selected the Granddaddy of Lobbyists. For a group so admirably without drama, it was utterly inexplicable. It was not a good choice.

And I am trying to figure out how to muster up enough bother to care.

It was wrong. It's not defensible. It is blatantly hypocritical. Yet after eight years of Bush administration transgression, "hypocrisy" almost seems like a breath of fresh air.

In fact, as far as hypocrisy goes, even this is pretty low-rent. No one tried to hide the appointment, or block questions with claims of "national security." The Obama administration has even acknowledged Mr. Lynn's selection is hypocritical, stating openly that he got a "waiver."

That doesn't justify it. It's still hypocritical. It's still an unnecessary selection. But I only have so much time and energy for getting worked up over issues. At a certain point, I have to prioritize. If you've twisted your ankle, it should be addressed. But if you're also bleeding from gunshot wounds and had your arms broken, it's probably best to get those looked at first.

I shake my head at the wrong-headed nomination of William Lynn. But my whole being convulses at the cataclysms that America has to excavate itself out of from the past eight years, now.

The United States economy is collapsing. The Iraq War continues with no end imminent, 4,200 Americans dead and 100,000 Iraqis killed. The War in Afghanistan is increasingly becoming a far greater threat to America. The national debt has reached $10.6 trillion. Global warming threatens to destroy the planet. Terrorists held at Gitmo can't be tried in court because they had been tortured. New Orleans is still trying to come back after being wiped off the map. Americans are being spied on by their own government.

A glut of catastrophic emergencies putting the nation (and world) at serious risk need to be resolved before I can add "hypocrisy" to the To Do list of outrage. No matter how hypocritical and wrong it is.

This doesn't let the action off the hook. It's wrong. It just puts it in perspective.

Added to that perspective is that, however wrong the appointment of William Lynn is, it's a quality appointment that aids America. This is a highly-accomplished man, a former Under Secretary of Defense. This isn't naming horse show executive Michael Brown to head up disaster relief. This isn't naming lightweight Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. It's not naming personal hack Alberto Gonzalez to lead the Justice Department. This isn't appointing sorority gossip girl Monica Goodling to any position of responsibility, let alone overseeing U.S. Attorneys. As much as the William Lynn appointment shouldn't have taken place, it helps keep America safe. That makes it all the harder to get worked up over its inappropriateness. Incompetence, however, that's worth getting worked up over.

An "ethics storm" some call it. Yet that's so primarily because the standard set by the Obama administration was so high. If this is an "ethics storm," what's left to call the ethics standards of the Bush administration? The words don't exist. Lying a nation into war, permitting torture, spying on American citizens, outing a CIA operative, politicizing the Justice Department, forcing scientists to rewrite science fact, creating fake journalists with press credentials and fake news reports. And beyond. Ethics violations are so reprehensible and criminal they put the nation at risk. To fairly call this an "ethics storm" requires adding, "...except when compared to the Bush Administration's ethics black hole, where ethics are sucked out of the universe."

I have a friend who periodically snipes at various Obama-related news stories. Whenever I point out that his reasoned complaints shrivel in relation to the Bush disasters, he responds, "Yes, yes, George Bush was a complete horror to this nation. But are you going to throw that up as a response every time I want to criticize Obama?"

Well...yes! You bet. He should criticize Barack Obama whenever he doesn't like something. We all should. That's what a thinking public and responsible press does. You don't challenge someone's patriotism because they disagree with the president. You challenge the president. But - you keep it all in perspective for what you're dealing with.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," writer George Santayana famously wrote. You must keep the past in perspective. You must address what most needs addressing. You must fix the serious problems putting you at risk before you can move forward.

Mind you, it's important that the Lynn appointment is being discussed. Truly. That's needed to keep an administration honest. But all I keep thinking is, "Where were you concerned watchdogs for eight years?"

I wish Barack Obama had not named William Lynn the Deputy Secretary of Defense. I think it was a wrong decision because it sends a wrong message. He deserves rebuke for undercutting his high standards.

I criticize it. I just can't get worked up over it. There's a difference. Doing so uses up too much valuable time. The boat is leaking. The house is on fire. The body is in cardiac arrest. America is at real risk. Resolve those first. Then I'll get around to seriously worrying about a hypocritical, but good appointment.