What’s happening? President Obama now has had three top appointees with tax problems, i.e. unpaid taxes. Combined with one person for which he had to wave his own ethics standards concerning lobbyists, this makes four highly questionable appointments. I am disappointed. I expected him to have a couple of bumps in the confirmation road, but I expected a smoother confirmation process.
What is most troubling for me is that Obama was apparently aware of these problems (at least for three of the four) before he named the appointees. He oversaw a thorough vetting process and opted to proceed because he believed the individuals were the best persons for the respective offices. This reveals a few things. First, his pragmatic essentialism (see an earlier post) combined with an element of over confidence can lead to unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement to suspend the rules. (“If I think these are the best persons for the job, what’s the problem?”)
Second, our new president has promised to inaugurate a higher standard for government but his actions suggest he does not understand there must be a connection between his words and his appointments. He promised us better than this and he has broken his promise. I truly thought he would be more careful, more principled, concerning these commitments. I realize I am holding him to a high standard, but it is the standard he set for himself.
Finally, I didn’t expect him to waist political currency on so much so early. He embarrassed himself and brought into doubt his decision-making processes. But only his opponents are paying attention at this point. He still has overwhelming good will. In the large scope of things these stumbles are minor and they should have little bearing on his presidency. They are indicators of his leadership style: decisive, determined, task oriented, but with an element of tunnel vision.