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No Time for Hypocrisy

No Time for Hypocrisy

Last week, President Obama announced a new executive order on ethics commitments by executive branch personnel. One of the provisions of this order deals with former lobbyists and their potential work within the Obama Administration.

Just two days later, President Obama waived those rules for William Lynn, his nominee for Deputy Secretary of Defense.

To be sure, Lynn is likely a very qualified and prepared candidate for a position of such importance. His experience is probably necessary to deal with the current state of affairs that the Department of Defense is faced with today. Lynn’s presence and leadership in the department could very well be effective and meaningful.

If the order had dealt with any other matter within the Administration, one in which so much faith and trust was not as inherent a virtue, this would likely not be a big deal, nor could any member of the opposition argue as such. However, the order dealt with ethics rules, and President Obama quickly decided to waive the rules for his appointment, as is his prerogative.

Still recovering from the good vibes and inclusiveness of his history-making presidency, I am sure that President Obama will be given a good amount of latitude as he works his way through his first 100 days with intensity and tirelessness, as the current situation demands.

But foregoing his own ethics rules so soon is not the great start I wanted to see from an Obama Administration. I was similarly disappointed during the general election campaign when then-Senator Obama went back on his pledge to take public funds for his campaign. Of course, the record amounts of fundraising were a substantial factor in his ability to compete across the board, but the fact remains that he was willing to go back on a pledge for a positive result.

With the turnaround timing of the waiver of his own ethics rules, the question then becomes, is it OK to waive a rule, or go back on a commitment if doing so achieves a better outcome? If the president knew that Lynn was going to be his nominee before the ethics rules were circulated, which is likely given the timing of each announcement, why not carve out a special exception for Lynn in the language, or delay the announcement of the rules?

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5 comments

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3:24AM PST on Feb 12, 2009

It's difficult to find qualified people if your ethics rules are too strict. Let's face it, this system is loaded with people who have conflicts. Obama will end up ineffective if he's too strict.

We probably don't know the real Obama yet. From what I saw of how he acted during the campaign and how he acted in the past, I'd say he's well meaning, but also an opportunist. He will change his position for short term gain.

Dan

9:20AM PST on Feb 5, 2009

One would think it is precisely in areas like an appointment of a critical cabinet and other high level position that a consistent application of ethical standards would be meaningful. This great nation is faced with its own moral conundrum, we have a democracy that gives all of us the expectation of freedom, equality and fairness, but our political process so often fail us because we have an imperfect way of electing "truth" and "integrity" in our leaders. Ethics is never an assertion, it is always an act. So if we are to believe our political leaders can rise to the occasion to be "ethical leaders" we must seek accountability and consistency in their action.

12:30PM PST on Feb 3, 2009

Duh - that's greater, not grater - little slip LOL

12:28PM PST on Feb 3, 2009

Well duhsveti, you may be right, and the questions before us now is do we stick to the honor platform of the election? Another question is about the ability to enforce ethics rules after such a waiver. How much "for the grater good" will we have? Anybody want to draw a line in the sand?

8:02AM PST on Jan 29, 2009

Well he seems to be determend to change something, and somethimes you just have to make compromises. And we can only see if anything improved after his presidency is complete. Althought you Americans seem to be a little dumb, so it took you 2 elections to finaly realise that Bush is a no brain, banana eating ape. Il neither judge nor completly belive in him until his 4 year term is done.

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