Monday, March 02, 2009

Washington 2009 in a Nutshell

Republicans don't count, and Democrats can't count.  We're not sure which is more dangerous to the nation.

The GOP apparently feels powerless because it no longer controls all the major wings of the federal government, as it did through most of the Bush Administration.  We are calling bullshit on this because, for starters, (a) they made their own bed and now get to lie in it; (b) they can still filibuster, and (c) the Supreme Court is probably now as right-leaning as it has ever been, and certainly as it has been within living memory.  So despite eight years of stunningly incompetent governance, they can still obstruct one branch, and control another -- more than the Dems could do just a couple of years ago.

But reality be damned, they still feel powerless. And parties without power are scary.  They can go theatrical, saying anything they want in the certainty that they will never be expected to act on it.  Hence the resurgence of Newt Gingrich, a smart man who evidently loves power more than he loves America.  Not to mention the unpatriotic bluster of Rush Limbaugh, who says over and over that he wants the President of the United States to fail.  (Limbaugh is, by the way, wrong when he claims that this what Democrats said about Bush, notably in Iraq; what they said was that Bush would fail, because his war was being prosecuted with such ideologically-blindered incompetence.  And they were right; he did fail, until rescued by David Petraeus, using tactics that Rumsfeld had rejected early on.  Sadly, his equally ideological and equally incompetent economic policies were never rescued.)

Anyway.  The Republicans are acting like a bunch of mad dogs, because they know they can.  But we are more disturbed by the Democrats who, while they haven't yet quite turned into pork-peddling icons of corruption on the lines of, say, Randy Cunningham or Ted Stevens, do seem to be showing another very serious symptom of too-much-power-itis.  It seems, at least, that they aren't even bothering to vet their nominees for appointive office.  Per the HuffPo:

The Senate Finance Committee says [that Ron Kirk,] President Barack Obama's nominee for trade representative owes roughly $10,000 in back federal taxes and has agreed to pay them. ...

Kirk becomes the latest nominee of the Obama administration with tax problems, although this one doesn't appear severe enough to jeopardize his confirmation as U.S. Trade Representative. Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus of Montana calls the former Dallas mayor the right man for the job, adding he will try to move the nomination quickly.

Um, really, Max?  You really think that a guy who either can't figure out his taxes or won't pay a professional to do it properly (or, worst-case, is intentionally cheating) is the right man for a government job?

Actually, he might.  Apparently, his team -- and our President -- just don't find the failure to accurately report and pay taxes to be a big problem.  Witness Tim Geithner, Tom Daschle, Hilda Solis and Nancy Killefer.  And now Tim Kirk.

We're not imputing any intentional criminality here, to anybody.  All of these are most likely more-or-less honest mistakes.  Tax forms really are confusing, once you get past the 1040-EZ.  But still, as our old civics teachers taught us and notwithstanding Sarah Palin, paying taxes really is patriotic -- a basic duty of every law-abiding citizen.  By which reasoning, the failure to pay them, except perhaps a protest, a la Thoreau, is a sort of low-level treason.

Honest mistakes, we assume, in all cases.  But even so, this sort of failure does bespeak a lack of thoroughness that we find troubling in our public officials -- both those who don't run the numbers correctly and those who don't vet their nominees.

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