January 16, 2009
It's a sign of our times that the news that the man chosen by President-Elect Obama to be the next Treasury Secretary failed to pay taxes to the IRS had no discernible impact. On the face of it, the lapse on the part of Timothy Geithner seems to be more serious than the Federal investigation into Gov. Bill Richardson, which may turn out to be nothing at all but derailed his nomination nonetheless. But when the entire economy is collapsing and crooked CEOs are making off with billions of taxpayer dollars, Geithner's relatively small-scale offense pales in comparison. He is the highly-respected protege of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who will become one of Obama's top economic advisers.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank called this "The Nomination That's Too Big to Fail," alluding to the flimsy rationale for bailing out AIG and other mammoth-sized financial institutions. He quoted Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) who said, "senators have decided that times are too dire to be puritanical." Even most Republicans have minimized the transgression, all too ready to forgive what is claimed to be an "honest mistake." But as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said, "The man who wants to be the top tax collector in America ... not having paid $35,000 in taxes, apparently maybe even involving an illegal alien, is a serious matter." I think so, too.
What is the real meaning of this easy pass for Geithner? That Congress is too frightened of rocking the boat by challenging a renowned financial expert and thereby creating another wave of panic on Wall Street.
At The Mud Pit, they challenged readers to "Say Something Nice About George Bush," and here is my response:
This is quite a challenge, but I've come up with something VERY nice to say about "W": No president ever faced as much bitter hatred and derision as Bush did without ever showing that it was getting under his skin. Bush II never got sarcastic or lashed out at his enemies the way LBJ, Nixon, or Clinton did. He may lack poise, but he definitely lives up to the Christian value of "turning the other cheek," and he abides by his faith with complete sincerity. In that one way, I think he can redeem himself in the eyes of history.