I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I sat down to watch a brief portion of the evening news and there, on CBS no less, was an interview with Katie Couric and the president. The words that I heard stunned me. "I screwed up. I take responsibility for this mistake." President Obama was referring, of course, to the problems several of his choices have faced in the U. S. Senate in seeking confirmation.
First, there was Governor Bill Richardson, then former-senator Tom Daschle, and now Nancy Killefer, his choice for chief performance office for the federal government. (Obama's choice of Republican Senator Judd Gregg (photo at right), of New Hampshire, for Secretary of Commerce seems to be a solid one and an evidence, again, of non-partisanship in style and effort.)
Even Timothy Geithner, the new Treasury secretary, faced challenges about $34,000 of self-employment taxes that he had not paid. (Anyone familiar with this issue would understand why the Senate approved him since this is a more honest mistake to make and does not reveal the same problems discovered regarding both Daschle and Killefer.
The President also told ABC's World News that "This is a self-inflicted injury that I'm angry about, and we're going to make sure we get it fixed." The first response to Daschle had been the typical "defend your colleague" no-matter-what response. Even Vice-President Biden had weighed in on Daschle very favorably. The club was rallying to defend its own. Republicans rightly challenged this and the President saw the problem more clearly as it unfolded. He acted in the right way and with honesty. One can hope we will see more of this action and candor in the days ahead. I personally pray that we will. Americans will, generally speaking, respect any leader who tells them the truth and also admits he is wrong when he is.
Ethics in government is hugely important. We have accepted this kind of behavior for so long that the people rightly listened to Obama's pledge to change Washington and many were affected by it. He took a step in the right direction on Tuesday. Since I am not a political cynic I believe that there will be more of the same. Obama does not have a life-long membership in the so-called Senate club so there is real hope here since he owes little or nothing to the gang. This Washington swamp needs draining. One can hope this leader will actually do it. He is not perfect but he is showing us that he has principles. His policies are worth serious debate, especially the stimulus package, which so far is not favored by a growing number of Americans. (I saw a number that said 58% disapprove of it as it is right now!) I think we need a "real" stimulus package but the one being promoted by Congressional Democrats needs to be challenged significantly. Will the president lead in the midst of this mess? Time will tell. I am praying that he will. He took a serious step in the right direction by showing leadership and honestly with regard to his own mistakes and bad judgment.