Saturday, January 31, 2009
I've been asked by conservative acquaintances what I think about the Tim Geithner thing: failure to pay taxes. My good friend says, "You can't have different strike zones for different teams." I like that expression, and think he's right. A frequent commenter thinks the fact that he was confirmed shows a double standard, claiming that if he were a Republican, it never would have happened. There was, she says, virtual silence. To that I say, "I disagree."
There's no excusing his failure to pay taxes; he says it was an innocent mistake, and perhaps it was. But it also seems he was told several times he owed money and only paid up when his nomination was imminent. That's pretty bad. I wouldn't try to justify it. What I have said is that it also seems that Mr. Geithner has particular skills and background (including expertise about China, which owns most of our money) that make him a good choice, or so it's said. He got votes from some Republicans, as a matter of fact.
I have no idea if he's the best or if there was no one else who could do the job he needs to do. Seems unlikely. On the other hand, if Barack Obama, knowing about this issue, still wanted him as Fed head, and if such lights as Orrin Hatch support it, then I'm willing to think he should get his man.
What I reject entirely is the double standard claim. First of all, the whole thing was all over all the media, including (and especially) that liberal bastion The New York Times. It was aired on all stations, and in the Senate hearings. Second, it's hardly the case that Democrats have gotten off easily in the past. Anyone remember Zoe Baird? Kimba Wood? Bill Clinton?
So, yes, I think it's inexusible. It speaks poorly for Timothy Geithner and, to some extent, for Barack Obama, and, most certainly for people in power, too many of whom seem to have these sorts of problems (see Tom Daschle.) People who get treated with special entitlements seem to think they are specially entitled. The thread runs strong through all parties. Who gets nailed and who doesn't is simply a matter of which party has what power, and over whose ox the knife is drawn at the moment. It's not a matter of Democrat vs Republican, or media silence, or double standard; and, in fact, I find the claims of unfairness a little amusing, particularly when it comes from the right. There was no more blatant steamrolling of the opposition than during the Gingrich era, and during the first six years of the Bush era. And what happened to David Vitter and Larry Craig? Out of office?
So let's just admit it: at the national level, the default assumption is that politicians are less than clean; and what one considers an outrage depends entirely on one's party affiliation and the status of that party's power at the moment. And it will change as quickly as the wind, when the power shifts. It were ever thus.