The health care crisis means we must have Daschle and make an exception to the new raised ethics bar. The financial meltdown means that we must have Geithner and make an exception to the new raised ethics bar. The war in Afghanistan and the comfortability level of Secretary Gates means we must make an exception to the new raised ethics bar and have Deputy Secretary Lynn. The vital need to restore the Constitution (Whoops! Renditions, FISA, the Patriot Act, and maybe Guantanmo are, well, still here.) means we must make an exception to the new raised ethics bar and have Attorney General Holder. So what happened to Bill Richardson? His value to the nation in times of crisis did not justify an exception?
Now, this is Victor Davis Hanson's interpretation of events in the Obama Administration, and so we can infer partisanship. But what reasonable interpretations are possible? Occam's Razor gives us, I think, two: that President Obama called on these people because he thought they were best for the jobs and was willing to overlook their ethics issues as long as they didn't reach the public eye, or that President Obama owed or felt he owed some plum positions to these people (and was willing to overlook their ethics issues as long as they didn't reach the public eye). Neither one is very admirable.
And then we have The New Editor's Tom Elia, who sums it all up thusly:
At the dawn of the Obama Administration we have witnessed: four high-level appointees blow up over various issues, tax and otherwise (Richardson, Daschel, and Killefer get axed; Geitner stays); the appointment of at least 12 lobbyists to positions in the Administration -- in direct contradiction of campaign promises; a pork-laden economic stimulus bill without precedent in US history; and the reversal of campaign positions concerning controversial policies like rendition.
Let me say that I don't believe President Obama and Congressional Democrats are the only guilty parties with regard to the ridiculous "stimulus" situation. Congressional Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for going along to get along.
But there are two points I want to make about these observations. First, the subtext Hanson sees is obvious: if so many Obama appointees have ethical "challenges," shall we say, then how many whose lives aren't in the spotlight must have them? And second, and this harks back to my post on functionalism, when one openly allows the end to justify the means by making decisions that clearly place ends ahead of all other considerations (this is giving President Obama the benefit of the doubt by assuming that he really did believe he was choosing the best people for these positions), one runs the risk of being reasonably accused of ruthless Marxist-like pragmatism.
(The difference I see between these appointee missteps and the Bush Administration's Patriot Act, or better I should say Democrat pundits' response to the Patriot Act - that it was stomping all over our civil liberties, etc., etc., using fear as a motivator to convince everybody that we needed to allow the end to justify the means - is that objectively, the Patriot Act hasn't actually stomped all over our civil liberties, whereas admitted tax cheats really have stomped all over the US Tax Code. For instance.)
UPDATE: But wait - there's more! From the LA Times (to my surprise): "In Washington's culture, unlike the lives of most normal obviously naive Americans, that's [that is, questions of right and wrong] hardly ever the issue. It's about what works. It's all about strategy."