We Americans are not as naive nor as stupid as many politicians may think. We know that campaign promises are more like suggestions and that Washington really isn't built for rapid change. Yes, Obama did really get us with his "Change" message, but we knew that it wasn't going to be overnight, if it happened at all. I think that's where all that "Hope" came in.
One of the things that we did hope for is that he really could change how Washington works. Every politician runs on "Washington is broken," but, with the disaster of Bush Babee administration, those words seemed truer than they have since 1980. With all the scandals, all the sniping and back-biting, and the disastrous economy, we all know things have to change in DC. We're still hoping that Obama can be that instrument for change, but it's looking to be a lot harder than we could've ever imagined.
The "revolving door" between pols and lobbyists and special interests have even hit Obama's own nominations. Just weeks after the Big Brother had been lauded for his prudent, damn-near sagacious choices for his cabinet, he's being hit left-and-right with exactly how insidious these relationships are. Along with straight-up tax evasion, it makes you wonder what exactly is going on with our politicians, how dirty are they, and can Obama not just clean up Washington but even his own prospective Cabinet?
In a slap-to-the-face to his own "no lobbyists" decree, SoD Robert Gates got a waiver for his Raytheon lobbyist bud, William Lynn, so he can serve as his deputy. Tom Daschel had to withdraw because of tax evasion and questions in how the hell he's made so much money as an "unofficial" lobbyist over these past few years since he was ousted from the Senate. Timothy Geithner had tax evasion issues. His nominee for White House Chief Performance Officer, Nancy Killefer, had to bow out over similar, though much less dramatic tax concerns. Yesterday, his nominee for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, is having her Senate confirmations held up over her husband's tax problems. And now retired Gen. Anthony Zinni had the offer of his being US Ambassador to Iraq rescinded in due part to his being an executive vice-president for DynCorp, a huge military contractor who’s all over Afghanistan and Iraq.
Of course, the nascent Obama administration will ride over these bumps in the road. All administrations stumble out of the gate. It's just his turn. But there are larger questions to ask here: If Obama, who's trying to run a squeaky-clean operation, can't find nominees who clear the bar, is it because of his people's lack of vetting skills or is it that everybody gets a little dirty once they enter Washington politics?
Just look at some of the scandals our nation's Capitol has been dealing with these past few years:
I love my Bronx Jew/Black Harlemite, I love his voice, I loved his autobiography, I hate his hair, but I love his candor. Now, he’s been held under suspicion for his cozy ties with corporate honchos, a relationship way too cozy for the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. But now he’s dodging tax evasion charges. Makes you wonder, don’t it?
Randy "Duke" Cunningham--R-CA
What this guy did was more than felonious. It was treasonous. Taking $2 million in bribes from defense contractors, especially while our nation’s at war, makes you really wonder how many men, women, and children died in Afghanistan and Iraq because of this bastard’s greed?
Now, all you middle-class black folks know that feeling of dread that turns your stomach when a spectacular crime’s teased on the news. You sit up there praying, “Oh, please, don’t let him be black.” Jefferson definitely piqued my middle-class black sensibilities with his brazen crimes. Not only was he bilking our African brothers, but he didn’t even have the decency to hide his graft in an off-shore account. I mean, damn, $900,000 in your gotdamned freezer?! What kind of ghetto bullshit was that?!
One of the only politicians who came out clean over the Katrina mess has since been muddied up over having received over $2 million of earmarks for $30,000 in campaign contributions from a reading program. Shaking down illiterate children. Now that takes ovaries.
As we all know, every day was Christmas for Ted Stevens
People are still being convicted over the Jack Abramoff (who was convicted back in ’06) scandal.
How Republican Congressman Billy Tauzin didn’t end up in jail after he fanagled that horrible Medicaid bill, which was nothing but a huge payday for the pharmaceutical industry, and then got the cushy, $2 million-a-year gig of president and CEO of that industry’s largest lobbying group, PHRMA, is beyond me.
For even more Washington corruption, check out Crew’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress:
What that list and the latest flap over the Obama picks prove to me that Washington does indeed need a big broom but also it needs to scrub the baseboards, lighting fixtures, and a severe douching of its septic tank. With the mind-boggling amounts of cash that flow in and out of Washington, we have hordes of lobbyists rushing the Capitol Steps every day. No matter how much Congress tries to disingenuously purge themselves of their influence, lobbyists still have a way-too-cozy relationship with our politicians and government officials. And we Americans pay the price. The Madoff scheme was probably not investigated for years because the Madoff family was literally in bed with the SEC. And what about last year's Sex-for-Oil scandal over at the Interior Department last year?
Our politicians always have been and always will be a privileged caste. However, it seems that they have let this privilege blind them to their primary responsibility: to represent the citizens of the United States of America. Instead, they have become way too identified with whom the lobbyists represent. They have decided that they too are immune from paying their taxes. They've decided that it's only "busines as usual" to trade campaign contributions for earmarks. In exchange for these political favors, many politicians like Tauzin and Daschel feel that it's only to be expected that they're rewarded with lucrative jobs from the industries they'd formerly regulated.
Washington is drowning in a miasma of corruption and "improprieties." We need to make it impossible for the Daschles and Tauzins from doing what they did. We need to seriously audit these pols' tax returns during and after they leave office (hear that, Bill?). We need to make sure that there is no ultimate pay-off for any person who serves this nation's government. Unfortunately, the only people who can legislate such reform are the very ones who grow fat on the life rafts of cronyism while the rest of the nation sinks to the bottom.
We can clown Obama for his nomination missteps all we like. It is the easier news story. But what we really need to do is find out exactly how dirty Washington actually is and how the hell can we clean it all up.