President Barack Obama did something last night that we haven’t seen a president do in over eight years.
The president was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on the CNN news analysis program “Anderson Cooper 360″. During the interview, he admitted he had made a mistake regarding the nomination of former senator Tom Daschle for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Obama stated, in no uncertain terms, for everyone nationally and internationally watching the program to see and hear, “I think I screwed up…And I take responsibility for it and we’re going to make sure we fix it so it doesn’t happen again.” You can read about it HERE, or watch it HERE.
Of course, Daschle himself admitted to mistakes on his 2005 through 2007 tax returns when queried by senate republicans during his confirmation hearings. But one can argue that he admitted these mistakes after getting caught, even though the information was known well before Daschle’s name was submitted into nomination for the cabinet post. Daschle has now removed his name from consideration for the post.
What Obama was admitting to was, among other points, that the Daschle nomination gave the appearance of special rules for special people, which Obama promised to change during his campaign and in the first days of his presidency. By admitting that he made a mistake with the Daschle nomination, he made it clear that he had learned from that mistake and that it would not happen again.
That’s refreshing, considering that Obama’s predecessor W Bush operated from the perspective that there are special rules for special people (like everyone in his administration, for instance). He also had a predilection for nominating such incompetent people such as Michael Brown for FEMA and Harriet Miers for Supreme Court Justice, as well as others whose primary qualification seemed to be their Bush-friendliness quotient and the amount of money they contributed to his campaigns.
We all know what happened during Hurricane Katrina, when Brown claimed to not know the extent of damage to New Orleans for four days after the storm (when everyone in the world with a TV or radio knew). And Harriet Miers, who was Bush’s White House counsel until early 2007. was nominated by Bush for the position of Supreme Court Associate Justice in 2005, based almost entirely on the fact that she was his friend. She was clearly unqualified by every other merit-based factor to be a Justice of the US Supreme Court, as became apparent to both democratic and republican senators at the time. You can read more about her lack of qualifications HERE.
As an addendum to this, Harriet Miers was replaced as White House Counsel by Fred Fielding whom, at Bush’s direction, issued letters to both Miers and Karl Rove directing them not to honor lawful congressional subpoenas for a second time, and this time claiming “executive privilege” in perpetuity on January 16th, 2009, just four days before Barack Obama was sworn in as president. Bush not only didn’t admit mistakes, but he doesn’t want anyone else in his disastrous administration ever admitting them or testifying about them, either. Ever!
That Obama has begun a change to that culture of false infallibility that preceded him is a very good thing, but it’s just scratching the surface. The congressional democrats, who clearly control the House of Representatives but, though in the clear majority, are still three votes shy of being able to stop any republican filibuster in the US senate, have got to learn the lesson of admitting when they’re wrong and then taking corrective action for all to see that they are serious about the admission.
The economic stimulus package winding its way through congress is the perfect catalyst for that lesson.
During the six years that republicans controlled congress, they pushed through legislation that almost doubled the nation’s debt, turned budget surplus in to huge budget deficits, and passed legislation lobbied for by big business (ultimately resulting in the economic meltdown) and the ultra-conservative wing of their party (remember “abstinence only” programs?). They supported tons of pork barrel spending, such as disgraced Alaska republican senator Ted Stevens’ bridge to nowhere. Ultimately, the American people finally had enough, and voted them out.
Congressional democrats are embarking down a similar road with the non-immediate-job-creating spending included economic recovery bill. Its laudable that they are attempting to promote such noble and necessary goals as better health care for all and alternative energy technologies. We the PEOPLE!! fully supports these issues, but the Economic Stimulus package is not the place to put them. Inclusion of these programs in this emergency bill only gives the republicans the opportunity to look like heroes who are attempting to be seen as trying (their all-of-a-sudden-new-found vision) to limit the rapidly expanding budget deficit and national debt, while making the dems look like irresponsible spenders.
Right now, the senate dems have the opportunity to correct the mistake made by the house dems in passing the US$819 billion bill in its gorged entirely. They can and should admit that the original bill contains a lot of non-immediate-recovery spending, and willingly remove all of it, making the point to the American people that putting that spending in this bill was a mistake.
They should admit they screwed up. In doing so, they will help move that “change we can believe in” on step further down the road.
If the dems can sieze the day and do this, the American people will love it. The republicans will have nowhere to go, except down the “change” road with the dems. Or out the door in November 2010.
So congressional dems: Follow your leader. Or as they say in chess: Check: your move.