Politico is making much of Tom Daschle’s potential for nomination turbulence, and I can’t say I necessarily blame them. Between Tim Geithner’s own tax troubles, Eric Holder’s baggage from the Clinton Administration, and Bill Richardson’s abrupt retreat, I begin to see something of a worrying trend. I don’t believe Obama himself is corrupt as the people reading a lot into this would like us to believe, but it is worrying for two main reasons. First is that Obama has publicly made a big deal out of holding himself and his administration to a higher standard of ethics, a spell already broken by Daschle himself being a violation of Obama’s self-imposed restrictions on hiring lobbyists. Secondly, it calls into question the heretofore legendary Obama vetting process, which was so scrutinous that the transition went over people’s facebook pages with fine toothed combs. Which was effective in reassuring the nation that the “No Drama Obama” ethos that goverened the campaign would carry over into the administration as it sought to avoid exactly the kind of incidents that have been unfolding over the last few weeks.

Now it can be said that Holder’s problems were largely ideologically based on republicans instantly disliking anything related to the “dark age” of the Clinton presidency, and while Geithner’s back taxes weren’t a small amount (34k, which is as much as I myself make in a year on the bottom of the employment totem pole), he was hardly holding back a king’s ransom and has already paid the IRS, with interest. Even Richardson’s departure can be explained as the desire not to drag the transition/administration through a media circus surrounding his investigation, esp with Blago still unfolding at the time.  Daschle, however, is a more troubling case, as he both owes a much more substantial amount in back taxes (140K, but also paid back recently) but was also a health-industry lobbyist, constituting a direct violation of Obama’s mandate of not having any former lobbyists in the administration working in the area for which they previously lobbied.

I guess the message I’d like to send is this: the administration should (and probably has) nominated the best people for their respective jobs. No one’s going to be perfect, and the senate generally weeds out those with any truly fatal problems. But you can’t blare the trumpets and announce lofty ethics rules and then immediately turn around and apply those rules on a case by case basis and not pay a price, both politically and at the polls. The admittedly massive benefit of the doubt bestowed by the honeymoon only goes so far, and at this point the aferglow is definitely beginning to fade. I’ve said it once before but I’ll say it again: I really like Obama, but no one gets a free blow job on my watch.

At the rate this is going Hillary may end up being one of the LESS contentious high-profile nominations.

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