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All Over $947:

TaxProf summarizes the Nancy Killefer matter thus (linking to various news stories):

Nancy Killefer, President Obama's selection to be the federal government's inaugural Chief Performance Officer, withdrew her candidacy after press reports surfaced that the D.C. government had slapped a $946.69 lien on her home for nonpayment of $298 of employment taxes (plus $48.49 of interest and $600 in penalties) on her two nannies and personal assistant over an 18-month period.

What next — people being pressured to withdraw from possible government appointments because of overdue parking tickets? It sounds like Ms. Killefer erred in the way lots of people err. I very much doubt that she was deliberately trying to cheat the government out of $298. Rather, she screwed up in having to deal with one of the many small tax and regulatory matters with which the government has burdened the public.

The legal system has a means of dealing with these errors, much as it has a means of dealing with overdue parking tickets: Modest financial penalties. The modest size of the penalty, coupled with its only being a financial penalty, reflects the modest magnitude of the misbehavior — it's a simple error that has to be remedied, not a deliberate fraud that merits serious punishment or deep moral condemnation.

Is this really the way we can get the best people for government jobs? Is it even the way that we can best insist on ethical behavior?

(Disclosure: I've screwed up things like filing my estimated tax payments, and have been assessed penalties that are slightly higher than Ms. Killefer's, though that were still quite modest. It has never gotten to liens, but maybe D.C. is just more lien-happy than the IRS.)

Tracy Johnson (www):
On the promotion path in the military, it's called the zero-defect mentality. The person who makes no errors (and conversely, took no risks) during his career makes General or Admiral.
2.3.2009 3:08pm
Joe Kowalski (mail):
So not that they've dropped out, are there any bets on when the congressional Republicans will start treating Daschle &Killefer as martyrs? They are but fine public servants waylaid by an overly encroaching and complicated tax code....
2.3.2009 3:10pm
A Law Dawg:
Her issue is only an issue because of Tim and Tom. Without those two, she would be just fine.
2.3.2009 3:10pm
John (mail):
For this to get to the lien stage, she must have been notified of her failure to pay and still not paid. That is worse than a mere slip up.

Let's face it. These government jobs usually don't involve rocket science. It should not be hard to fill them with competent people who follow the law and correct errors when they are discovered. The trouble is the standard for filling these jobs is usually some form of payoff to some one who is owed something.

So screw 'em.
2.3.2009 3:11pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Why do you call a penalty "modest" that's more than twice the value of the original tax due? If you were late paying a private contractor, would you feel his adding on a "modest" late charge of twice what you owed reasonable?
2.3.2009 3:11pm
Ugh (mail):

For this to get to the lien stage, she must have been notified of her failure to pay and still not paid. That is worse than a mere slip up.


I think that's pretty much it plus the prior two screw ups.
2.3.2009 3:12pm
Serendipity:
But isn't the larger point that competent people make these kinds of mistakes everyday? Are we really going to be able to attract top performers if they and their character will be dragged through the mud over something about as significant as "parking tickets."

This seems loosely related to the "outcry" over Michael Phelps' pot smoking to me. Why can't someone just come out, look directly into the camera and say "No one is perfect and we really ought to stop pretending that our politicans, athletes, and movie stars have have to be. They certainly aren't role models. You want a role model for your kid? Be one. Clearly politicians are not; look at the bunch of buffoons we have judging me for my indiscretions right now."
2.3.2009 3:15pm
StCuervo (mail):
Well I'm a Republican but I think this is too much. A few hundred dollars in fines is precisely what Prof. Volokh says: a modest error. The fact that someone made a minor mistake is evidence that they are human, not evidence that they are incapable of performing their office. The Preisdent (whether Republican or Democrat) deserves to have his or her people in kep positions unless there are serious reservations about them. This is not a serious reservation.

In the wake of Geithner and Daschel, however, I have to wonder if there isn't something else going on here. Both Geither and Daschel made "errors" many times the magnitude of Killefer's error and I have to wonder if there is something else going on that Killefer choose to use this as an excuse to exit rather than going forward. The Democrats were able to push Geither through (although Daschel withdrew), it seems to me the Democrats could have pushed Killefer through if she/they wanted to.
2.3.2009 3:17pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

For this to get to the lien stage, she must have been notified of her failure to pay and still not paid.


In theory, yes. But some jurisdictions are very quick off the mark to go to liens, garnishments and so forth. And who knows whether she actually received the notification, or whether she or her accountant disputed it and got hit with the lien even though it was disputed? Before concluding that she had deliberately or negligently ignored the notice I would want more information about the circumstances.
2.3.2009 3:18pm
josil (mail):
I'd feel more sympathy for her if I was convinced that her fellows of similar politics were not responsible for the awful laws that make up our tax code. Also, when something of this nature comes up, many act as if there were not 100s of equally or more qualified candidates available. So, no tears here. I'm with John on this one.
2.3.2009 3:18pm
Matt L. (mail):
<i>Why do you call a penalty "modest" that's more than twice the value of the original tax due? If you were late paying a private contractor, would you feel his adding on a "modest" late charge of twice what you owed reasonable?</i>
... Really? I think the Prof. was talking about the absolute size of the penalty, and not the size relative to the underlying unpaid tax. Regardless, this is sorta splitting hairs?

<i>It should not be hard to fill them with competent people who follow the law and correct errors when they are discovered. The trouble is the standard for filling these jobs is usually some form of payoff to some one who is owed something.</i>
I think the point of this post was that if the main qualification for government employment is not making any mistakes, then there wouldn't be many candidates for the job. This was a $300 mistake (well, really it was at least 2 mistakes, assuming what you said about the liens); still, that's sufficient for disqualification?

Additionally, I think your implication here (that Killefer is incompetent) is unfair.
2.3.2009 3:22pm
Steve:
I would not necessarily assume that this is the whole story.
2.3.2009 3:24pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

her fellows of similar politics were not responsible for the awful laws that make up our tax code.


Surely you don't mean to suggest that the Republicans would have a radically simpler tax system if they had the opportunity? With the exception of a tiny minority, virtually the entire American political spectrum favors enough exceptions and exemptions and classifications that are not easy to make that it seems unfair to blame any particular group for a tax system that makes such oversights and errors easy to make.
2.3.2009 3:25pm
Dan Weber (www):
I think this grows from the short-sightedness of politics.

Party 1 puts up their candidate who has defect A. Party 2 screams to high heaven about it.

Then Party 2 gets in power and puts up a candidate who has defect B. Party 1 goes into a tizzy.

Is a lax lien a big issue? Of course not. But the Democrats made it an issue during the campaign in order to get Joe The Plumber, and so they can't back down.

What I really wish was that the Republicans would point out how incredibly obnoxious our tax laws are, and say "we understand, our laws are a mess. Your guy was honest and trying his best and just couldn't keep up with them. Let's simplify."

I'm not holding my breath, though. They can score short-term points by screaming with banshee jackals.
2.3.2009 3:26pm
David H. Fuller (mail) (www):
Some local jurisdictions are extremely lien happy because it's the least expensive form of enforcement.

The IRS has large numbers of people that are devoted to collecting back taxes through audits, repayment plans, and enforcing priority status in bankruptcy proceedings. The IRS can do this because of the scale of taxes it collects, and because it may ultimately be more efficient than slapping liens on every person that screws up their taxes.

Other jurisdictions that work on a smaller scale, may prefer a lien because it is direct and requires very little administration as compared to a collection department on a scale comparable to that of the IRS collection department.
2.3.2009 3:27pm
Oren:
None of this would have happened if the GOP had rewritten the tax code to their liking in the earlier part of this decade.
2.3.2009 3:32pm
Steve:
But the Democrats made it an issue during the campaign in order to get Joe The Plumber, and so they can't back down.

Uh, the Democrats? Do you mean, like, random liberal bloggers? Because the idea that the Obama campaign and other high-level Democrats cared about discrediting "Joe the Plumber" is pretty silly.

Tax issues are embarrassing because they're embarrassing, particularly when it's the Party of Higher Taxes that's involved. The idea that it's only an issue right now because of some kind of Joe the Plumber blowback seriously makes my head spin.
2.3.2009 3:32pm
tyree (mail):
Steve probably has the right of it. Too many Democrats believe that the press will protect them the way it protected President Obama. Everyone forgets and makes mistakes, Nancy Killifer is getting out before someone finds the really big problem.

From this Republican, I would be happy if just one of these Democrats would say, "Yes, the tax code is ridiculously complex and repressive. I have paid all of my back taxes and fines and I will accept the position in Obama's cabinet. Once there, I will work tirelessly to reduce the complexity of the tax code."

Seriously, I would vote for anyone of either party who actually cared about the issues that affect me in my everyday life. Instead we get Proclamations that Condemn Slavery, and stuff like that.
2.3.2009 3:33pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Perhaps a further investigation would show a "modest" immigration problem. Seems to have happened to others.
I agree, without the examples of the Helmsleys who came before her--only little people pay taxes--this wouldn't have been such a big deal.
Good point about Joe The Plumber, who had not been informed of the lien. Still caught hell.
IMO, the dems figured this stuff would only go one way. What a surprise.
2.3.2009 3:36pm
Sarcastro (www):
It's all a distracting head fake! Obama is like a mastermind, there's no way this couldn't be on purpose.

Now he's going to anoint appoint a super-liberal cabal to CPO, and the Senate is going to let her through, like they did with Justice Kennedy and Souter!
2.3.2009 3:38pm
Michael B (mail):
Assuming this is the sole reason Killefer withdrew, it seems positively silly. Problem is, we don't know this is the sole reason for the withdrawal, much as we don't know this isn't the sole reason.
2.3.2009 3:39pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Because the idea that the Obama campaign and other high-level Democrats cared about discrediting "Joe the Plumber" is pretty silly.


The Ohio Director of Jobs and Family Services (a member of the governor's cabinet) and a deputy had to quit because they ran improper record checks on Joe.

I don't know if you'd consider her "high level" or not but she was not a mere clerk.

I do agree that this Killefer thing has nothing to do with J t P.
2.3.2009 3:41pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
What next -- people being pressured to withdraw from possible government appointments because of overdue parking tickets?

What's excusable about failing to pay a (properly served) parking ticket on time? I've received two parking tickets in my life, and they both clearly stated the date by which payment was due.
2.3.2009 3:44pm
David Welker (www):

What's excusable about failing to pay a (properly served) parking ticket on time? I've received two parking tickets in my life, and they both clearly stated the date by which payment was due.


I agree. Absolutely inexcusable. We should bring back the death penalty for paying traffic tickets late. I can think of no more heinous and evil crime. =)
2.3.2009 3:46pm
TRE:
Sure this isn't the whole story.
2.3.2009 3:46pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
Once there, I will work tirelessly to reduce the complexity of the tax code."

Maybe Killefer can blame the complexity of the tax code for her woes, but not Daschle. Sure, the tax code is complicated, but simplifying it won't make the principle that in-kind payments are taxable any easier to understand. That's really basic stuff that anyone should know.
2.3.2009 3:47pm
Brian G (mail) (www):

None of this would have happened if the GOP had rewritten the tax code to their liking in the earlier part of this decade.


Which is exactly why Karl Rove would not allow Republicans change it. He knew that he could trick Democrats into not paying their taxes.
2.3.2009 3:53pm
Happyshooter:
I think it is cheesy garbage to exclude people from office for this.

On the other hand, the dems started this game when they went after Bork, and the GOP saved their first shot for Kimba Wood (who really was a loon).

Now it is just game on.
2.3.2009 3:55pm
Leland (mail):
Is this really the way we can get the best people for government jobs?

It might be a petty offense, but then it is not one I have committed. The question I have is: After getting screwed like this, how much effort did she put in as a legislator to overturn similar idiotic laws? If she worked hard to make such tax laws less complex, so others would not go awry of them, then indeed she might be a "best [person] for the government job". Otherwise, she's a hypocrite, and its good to be done with her.
2.3.2009 3:58pm
Joe - Dallas (mail):
The state of Texas is also very aggressive with regard to filing payroll tax returns for household employees. The state of texas does not have a provision for the abatement of reasonable cause, and does slap liens for unpaid tax as little as $75 for the late filing of the employment tax returns with little or no tax due. I agree that this is an extremely minor issue. I would quite frankly view this as a non issue.

Tom Dashels and Gaithers tax problems are far more substantial and should disqualify them.
2.3.2009 4:01pm
Houston Lawyer:
Clearly the solution would be to make the tax laws simpler. If you have ever had to file quarterly tax returns for your own business, odds are that you have been dunned by the IRS for $1.29 in underpaid taxes. It is far easier to just pay the $1.29 than to spend hours of your time correcting the IRS's error.

At least the IRS won't penalize you for failing to file a return for which not taxes were due. There are numerous taxing entities that will.
2.3.2009 4:10pm
wyswyg:
There's probably more going on here than we've been told. For instance, an illegal nannie.
2.3.2009 4:14pm
Snaphappy:
I worry about estimated taxes because although my only real income is wages from the firm where I work (which withholds D.C. income tax), and though I have always received a refund from D.C. since I have lived here, for some reason TurboTax prints out estimated tax forms for me to file every year. But I never file them. I suppose I should be barred from government service for this, which happens to be just fine because the heck if I can afford the pay cut.
2.3.2009 4:15pm
wyswyg:

This seems loosely related to the "outcry" over Michael Phelps' pot smoking to me.



You know, I never heard any "outcry" over Michael Phelps' pot smoking. I've heard plenty of outcry about the alleged outcry over Michael Phelps' pot smoking though.
2.3.2009 4:18pm
Snaphappy:
I also promise Houston Lawyer that if I am nominated and somebody asks about certain state tax forms that I filed a year late (because I knew I was getting a refund), I will proudly say that I was doing my patriotic duty by giving the government the free use of my money for an additional year.
2.3.2009 4:18pm
Anderson (mail):
But some jurisdictions are very quick off the mark to go to liens, garnishments and so forth

True story: I was notified of garnishment by service of papers at my work, including a default judgment against me.

When I looked into how on earth that could've happened, given that I'd never heard of the suit, I learned that I'd been "served with process" by a summons attached to the door of my house ... or rather, the house I'd moved out of, a year previously to the summons.

(Turned out it was a doctor I'd forgotten to pay, so I wrote a check &that was that -- but it just goes to illustrate the quoted point above.)
2.3.2009 4:18pm
theobromophile (www):
What I don't understand is the business of criticising people over past mistakes. Should Killefer still owe those taxes, it would make sense for her to withdraw her nomination: a candidate for such a high office should at least have his or her life in order before accepting an appointment. (This is at the root of my problems with the other appointees; it's not just the magnitude of the issue, but the fact that those are currently owed taxes, IIRC.)
2.3.2009 4:20pm
Floridan:
"Once there, I will work tirelessly to reduce the complexity of the tax code."

This always sounds good, but the real issue is where to start. How many people would be in favor of beginning by eliminating the deduction for mortgage interest and child care credits? Maybe get rid of deductions for state taxes paid, too?
2.3.2009 4:23pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
What next -- people being pressured to withdraw from possible government appointments because of overdue parking tickets? It sounds like Ms. Killefer erred in the way lots of people err. I very much doubt that she was deliberately trying to cheat the government out of $298. Rather, she screwed up in having to deal with one of the many small tax and regulatory matters with which the government has burdened the public.


I can accept for the sake of argument that Nancy Killefer’s tax problems were an honest mistake rather than an attempt to “cheat” on her taxes (I do not think that the same is true for Tom “tax-cheats cheat us all” Daschle or Tim Geithner).

That being said, a large part of her qualifications for this new position was the fact that she spent three years as Assistant Secretary for Management, CFO, and COO at the United States Department of the Treasury and later spent five years on the IRS Oversight Board (the last three of which as Chairperson) while she having problems with her own taxes.

I think that when a transgression relates this closely to a nominee’s qualifications or the job that she’s being considered for, it will and perhaps should be seen as more serious than an unrelated issue like parking tickets.

FTR: I would have preferred if Tim Geithner withdrew his nomination or if the Senate voted against his confirmation than Nancy Killefer as his issue was more serious. That being said, his and 68 Senator’s failure to do the right thing doesn’t give her a free pass.
2.3.2009 4:23pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
Further to Bill Poser's point, the GOP passed a domestic production deduction (IRC 199) and deferred compensation penalty (409A) that are widely considered to be the dumbest, most poory written, radical departures from the underlying structure of the tax code in memory.

Yes, the new Bush GOP mangles the regulatory process with as much skill and glee as the democrats.
2.3.2009 4:25pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
This seems loosely related to the "outcry" over Michael Phelps' pot smoking to me.


You know, I never heard any "outcry" over Michael Phelps' pot smoking. I've heard plenty of outcry about the alleged outcry over Michael Phelps' pot smoking though.


Sort of like how for the last seven or so years I heard a lot of people saying “don’t question my patriotism!” but not a lot of people actually questioning their patriotism.
2.3.2009 4:26pm
LN (mail):
They're not "anti-war." They're just on the other side.
2.3.2009 4:33pm
Anon21:
Happyshooter:
On the other hand, the dems started this game when they went after Bork

Really? They did? My understanding of the Bork situation is that Senate Democrats essentially just attacked him for being an arch-conservative, and once they felt they had enough public support for that objection, voted him down. There was no scandal or controversy; just a straightforward political attack. I don't see how this is analogous to that situation; indeed, I've seen public opposition directed towards Geithner, Daschle, or Killefer on the basis of their views, which appear to be predictably center-left.

You could say the Bork confirmation fight was the start of certain fairly unsavory practices or political tactics (although I'm not clear you'd be right), but manufactured outrage over mini-scandals isn't one such practice.
2.3.2009 4:35pm
Oren:

Sure, the tax code is complicated, but simplifying it won't make the principle that in-kind payments are taxable any easier to understand. That's really basic stuff that anyone should know.

I don't know about anyone, but Senate Majority Leader, sure.
2.3.2009 4:36pm
Anon21:
Correction to last sentence of first paragraph above: should read "...indeed I've seen little public opposition directed towards...
2.3.2009 4:36pm
OSU2L (mail):
You have to think one of them was an illegal immigrant or stayed past her visa and it would have become obvious had she proceeded further.
2.3.2009 4:38pm
Der Hahn (mail):
If you want to blame anybody, EV, blame Team Obama for an insufficent job of vetting Daschle and Geitner. If they had fixed their tax problems completely and in a transparent fashion prior to their nominations, instead of trying to skate by on the assumption the MSM would bury the story, Killefer's problem wouldn't be looming so large.
2.3.2009 4:39pm
ShelbyC:
"manufactured outrage over mini-scandals" == "straightforward political attack"
2.3.2009 4:40pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
Sort of like how for the last seven or so years I heard a lot of people saying “don’t question my patriotism!” but not a lot of people actually questioning their patriotism.

Get ready for that to Change:

(1) Dissent from something Obama wants to do.

(2) When questioned, state that you are dissenting because, as numerous Prius, '87 Volvo wagon, '89 Civic hatchback, and Subaru bumper stickers have informed you for the past eight years, "dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

(3) Be told that what you're doing is not "true patriotism."
2.3.2009 4:43pm
AntonK (mail):
My message to all the non-tax-paying Democrats who, by the way, LOVE to raise taxes: Pay your taxes!!
2.3.2009 4:49pm
albert:
Happyshooter wrote: I think it is cheesy garbage to exclude people from office for this.

On the other hand, the dems started this game when they went after Bork, and the GOP saved their first shot for Kimba Wood (who really was a loon).

Now it is just game on.


Judge Wood was and is, first-rate. Have you ever had a case in her court?
2.3.2009 4:50pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
Joe Biden said paying taxes is a patriotic duty.

This commercial indicates that you honor Holocaust survivors in part by letting them smoke weed.

The internet makes the world seem really wierd.
2.3.2009 4:51pm
Harry Schell (mail):
The offensse is small change and not an abnormal dispute in the scheme of things. The amount is piddling.

I don't think this lien is the problem, after Geithner getting a pass and lying through his teeth about his competence or his honesty on why a consistent problem revealed in audit did not stir him to fess up.

I think our Ms. Killefer has uglier issues than the lien, and, with the patience of many being having been used up by other nominees, decided not to try to sell her version of a "clean turd". Or Bama's cadre decided it for her.

Don't matter much, we got at best part of the story, sort of like Chris Dodd's exposure of his Countrywide loan documents...
2.3.2009 4:56pm
wyswyg:

You could say the Bork confirmation fight was the start of certain fairly unsavory practices or political tactics (although I'm not clear you'd be right), but manufactured outrage over mini-scandals isn't one such practice.



Among the problmes with this is that there was no "manufactured outrage" in this case. In fact there was no outrage at all. The Obama people killed this nomination in almost the same breath as they mentioned the problems.

There was certainly outrage over Geithner and Daschle, although not nearly as much as there should have been.
2.3.2009 4:58pm
FWB (mail):
Ethical vs nonethical

Does one always drive the speed limit?

One's answer says much about one's ethics.

I have operated VERY high dollar businesses and worked as a professor. Never late for tax payments. Never fined. Audited once as a grad student over taxability of stipend in 40+ yrs of tax returns.

We must hold those in whom we place our trust to the highest standards possible. Honor above all else.

Dominus providebit!
2.3.2009 4:59pm
Michael B (mail):
Simplifying the tax code: replace the IRS with a consumption tax or some other fundamental reorientation.

Ergo: it's the political will that is lacking, not the means. All the remainder effectively reduces to b.s. "Change" as a political slogan only is preferable to more genuine, more appreciable, more meaningful change. "Change," as long as a certain status quo can continue to feel comfortable.
2.3.2009 5:12pm
LN (mail):
An obvious issue with replacing the income tax with a consumption tax is that people who have saved their past income will get hammered. That, and Obama and his campaign slogan.
2.3.2009 5:26pm
Happyshooter:
Really? They did? My understanding of the Bork situation is that Senate Democrats essentially just attacked him for being an arch-conservative, and once they felt they had enough public support for that objection, voted him down. There was no scandal or controversy; just a straightforward political attack.

Yes, really, they did. Remember how the dems attacked his comments and stances, and middle America didn't care, so they researched his video rental history and released it to the press?

After that it was game on, tax returns, travel records, everything.
2.3.2009 5:26pm
LN (mail):
Bork's video rental history was not leaked to the press by the Democrats, but by the rental store, sparking a bit of an outcry by far-right-wing groups like the ACLU. His rental history wasn't even that interesting, and had zero impact on his political fortunes.
2.3.2009 5:31pm
Happyshooter:
Judge Wood was and is, first-rate.

Archimedes Palimpsest. 40 years of strong history, in her very district and circuit, on Jewish ownership of art law. As soon as Christians were making the exact same claim she shut it down on laches.

Milken. Oversentenced to send a message and get a promotion.

A judge who makes political decisions for her own advancement on the bench is the worst sort. One that makes them from world viewpoint you can deal with or convince, a climber--never.
2.3.2009 5:34pm
Happyshooter:
Bork's video rental history was not leaked to the press by the Democrats, but by the rental store, sparking a bit of an outcry by far-right-wing groups like the ACLU.

Please don't play 2L political games with words. 'It wasn't the GOP that leaked the tax...it was a staffer.' 'It wasn't the dems that..Joe the Plumber, it was staffers and officeholders.'

Both sides do it now, the dems started the game.
2.3.2009 5:37pm
LN (mail):
Yes Happyshooter, it was top-secret undercover Democratic agents working at the video store who invaded Bork's privacy! No one in middle America cared about Bork's originalism, but once people found out that he had rented "Ruthless People" his nomination was doomed!
2.3.2009 5:40pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
"the D.C. government had slapped a $946.69"

Reading this, I get the impression that the real issue here is the nonpayment of 94,669 pennies.
2.3.2009 5:41pm
LN (mail):
See here for the story of how Bork's video rental history become public info. A reporter, having heard from second-hand that Bork had been seen at a local video store, went to there and asked for the records, and got them.

His video rental history was utterly mundane, and completely useless as a political attack, although perhaps the whole episode could be viewed as somewhat ironic given Bork's views on privacy.
2.3.2009 5:51pm
JKB:
Nancy Killefer's mistake was being third in a string of appointments with tax issues. She is also a relative unknown player. Does anybody really expect Obama to go to the mat for her? Her error was small in reality but she gets all the weight of the two real cheats who came before her.
2.3.2009 5:51pm
Old Fart:
It's about hypocrisy. On lots of levels.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Daschle told the Senate Finance Committee that he "had grown used to having a car and driver as majority leader and did not think to report the perk on his taxes."

But here's how he campaigned for reelection back home.

GOP Whip Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said it best: "It is easy for the other side to advocate for higher taxes because — you know what? — they don't pay them."
2.3.2009 6:18pm
CDR D (mail):
>>>I get the impression that the real issue here is the nonpayment of 94,669 pennies.


<<<

The new zinc ones, or the older copper ones?

There is a difference in value.
2.3.2009 6:32pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
I agree with Steve and Michael B. that we should not assume the taxes underlying the District of Columbia liens on Killefer are the only reason for her to withdraw her nomination. IMO there is likely more, but how much more, and what, may take some digging given the MSM's favoritism towards the Obama administration.

And they wonder why their ratings, circulation and revenue are tubing.
2.3.2009 6:44pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'll trade one Killefer error for a decade or so of tax cheating by Congressman Rangel.
2.3.2009 6:44pm
Steve:
It's amazing to me that any intelligent person could review the evidence and conclude that Bork's utterly mundane video rental records played any kind of significant role in his confirmation process. It's like he's a martyr with an almost wholly invented backstory at this point.
2.3.2009 6:47pm
PlugInMonster:
No one should question his saintliness...
2.3.2009 6:56pm
Splunge:
Is this really the way we can get the best people for government jobs?

Of course not. But then, you can't get the best people for government jobs anyway, because they're government jobs. No one with sufficient moxie and competence to make it in the free market has the lust for unearned fame and power required to want to be a Cabinet Secretary, or other similar underpaid, overexposed, miserable showboating job.

Is it even the way that we can best insist on ethical behavior?

Certainly not, but ethics is not the real goal. And why would it be? A Cabinet Secretary is not required to have an internal code of honor, because he's got an extensive and detailed external code of behaviour that governs his every move. Indeed, as in most legal advocates, an actual conscience could be a handicap, a stumbling block to the kind of rapid and smooth re-formulation of your (passionate, long-held) public opinions on things like rendition, bail-outs, Federal deficits, copyright, the innocence and virtue of certain subordinates, et cetera and so forth, depending on what your boss wants or the latest poll demands.

The goal is the ability to look ethical under a barrage of stand-up comedy nightly news sound bites, and, indeed, this is exactly how you go about it.

Who wills the ends, wills the means. If folks don't like the process, they can stop handing government so much power that it would seem to require highly ethical angels to wield it properly.
2.3.2009 7:02pm
Mac (mail):
Mark Foley sends stupid e-mails to male pages and gets thrown out of office. The Democratic indignation is overwhelming. Republicans were none too happy, either.

Studs has sex with a male page on a plane while taking a trip paid for by the taxpayers and admits it after he is reelected and eventually retires and is given a standing ovation by his fellow Democrats.

We are told By Ellen Goodman for one, that the double standard is OK because Republicans say that such behavior is reprehensible and should be punished. Therefore, evidently, it is OK to be outraged by the former and not the later. She doesn't explain why it is a good thing that Democrats aren't bothered by sex with teen pages. After all, the Dem's did write the sexual harassment in the workplace laws which have put any number of ordinary citizens in jail.

However, it appears that it is OK for Democrats to not pay taxes even though they are constantly wanting to raise yours and mine. Biden has elevated it to our "patriotic duty".

Even if I were to accept the logic for a higher standard for Republicans when it comes to sex, it would seem that Democrats, especially given past hysteria over Republican problems with nannies and taxes, should be held to quite a high standard when it comes to their paying their taxes.

Looking at Geitner, I guess not. I guess I am just one of the great unwashed who just needs to pay my taxes and not bother my head about such things.
2.3.2009 7:10pm
Putting Two and Two...:
Several posters seem to misunderstand Ms. Killefer's situation. Unless there's more waiting to be disclosed, yes, she failed to pay DC unemployment taxes in a timely manner and was penalized for it and paid all taxes, fines and interest after a lien was placed.

Some seem not to realize that she apparently DID pay withholding taxes, Social Security taxes, disability taxes, etc., etc.

On one hand, I imagine this happens quite frequently when people move to DC. We've hired employees in other states and figuring out what ALL the applicable taxes are can be very confusing.

On the other hand, this is what tax professionals are for, and I would hope that people at her level would use qualified accountants/tax preparers.
2.3.2009 7:11pm
Mac (mail):
Or, it may be that this is all an Obama plan to balance the budget and pay for all the new entitlements he wants.

Keep nominating wealthy and powerful Democrats to office and the money owed in back taxes just keeps pouring into the coffers of the Treasury!
2.3.2009 7:13pm
Steve:
After all, the Dem's did write the sexual harassment in the workplace laws which have put any number of ordinary citizens in jail.

Wow. Could you name even one ordinary citizen who is in jail for sexual harassment in the workplace?
2.3.2009 7:21pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
splunge,

Nah, it's about entertainment. Scandals involving public officials are fun, because they get public attention just as celebrities get public attention. Sometimes they're intentionally the same thing, a la Teddy Roosevelt ("the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral") and Bill Clinton.

It's fun to watch the high and mighty brought low. And there are personal preferences in such matters - I LOVE Congressional sex scandals.

There's a term for this, and even a song:
"GARY COLEMAN:
Right now you are down and out and feeling really crappy

NICKY:
I'll say.

GARY COLEMAN:
And when I see how sad you are
It sort of makes me...
Happy!

NICKY:
Happy?!

GARY COLEMAN:
Sorry, Nicky, human nature-
Nothing I can do!
It's...
Schadenfreude!
Making me feel glad that I'm not you.

NICKY:
Well that's not very nice, Gary!

GARY COLEMAN:
I didn't say it was nice! But everybody does it!

D'ja ever clap when a waitress falls and drops a tray of glasses?

NICKY:
Yeah...

GARY COLEMAN:
And ain't it fun to watch figure skaters falling on their asses?

NICKY:
Sure!

GARY COLEMAN:
And don'tcha feel all warm and cozy,
Watching people out in the rain!

NICKY:
You bet!

GARY COLEMAN:
That's...

GARY AND NICKY:
Schadenfreude!

GARY COLEMAN:
People taking pleasure in your pain!

NICKY:
Oh, Schadenfreude, huh?
What's that, some kinda Nazi word?

GARY COLEMAN:
Yup! It's German for "happiness at the misfortune of others!"

NICKY:
"Happiness at the misfortune of others." That is German!

Watching a vegetarian being told she just ate chicken

GARY COLEMAN:
Or watching a frat boy realize just what he put his dick in!

NICKY:
Being on the elevator when somebody shouts "Hold the door!"

GARY AND NICKY:
"No!!!"
Schadenfreude!

GARY COLEMAN:
"Fuck you lady, that's what stairs are for!"

NICKY:
Ooh, how about...
Straight-A students getting Bs?

GARY COLEMAN:
Exes getting STDs!

NICKY:
Waking doormen from their naps!

GARY COLEMAN:
Watching tourists reading maps!

NICKY:
Football players getting tackled!

GARY COLEMAN:
CEOs getting shackled!

NICKY:
Watching actors never reach

GARY AND NICKY:
The ending of their oscar speech!
Schadenfreude!
Schadenfreude!
Schadenfreude!
Schadenfreude!

GARY COLEMAN:
The world needs people like you and me who've been knocked around by fate.
'Cause when people see us, they don't want to be us, and that makes them feel great.

NICKY:
Sure!
We provide a vital service to society!

GARY AND NICKY:
You and me!
Schadenfreude!
Making the world a better place...
Making the world a better place...
Making the world a better place...
To be!

GARY COLEMAN:
S-C-H-A-D-E-N-F-R-E-U-D-E!"

The MSM has really stepped on its d*** here by not indulging the public's taste for this concerning the Obama administration.
2.3.2009 7:23pm
albert:
It's amazing to me that any intelligent person could review the evidence and conclude that Bork's utterly mundane video rental records played any kind of significant role in his confirmation process. It's like he's a martyr with an almost wholly invented backstory at this point.

I don't know of anyone who thinks that his video rental records played any role in his rejection. The fact that this was dug up and reported, while its irrelevance was transparent, just highlighted that this was a feeding frenzy: nothing was too mundane, no possible insinuation too groundless to be reported, even after it was 'checked out' and found to be nothing. It is a symbol of the absurdity with which his situation was handled by the press and congress (my favorite: Kennedy's sanctimonious denunciations of antisemitic property covenants in Bork's neighborhood, and open accusations that Bork was lying or stupid when Bork denied even reading all that crap. Promptly followed, naturally, by the discovery of such covenants in Kennedy's property. After which it was time for everyone to move on to another topic.). For a week or two there, it was really Lord of the Flies time.

As for Killefer: she really got the short end of the stick. It's Daschle and Geithner who behaved egregiously, Killefer's sins were venal. The problem with her is not that she failed to pay the confusing taxes, but that she sat on the problem until a lien was filed, then waited months to clear it up, despite being a high-income earner. Still, this was a venal sin; she has just gotten caught up in the Daschle/Geithner event horizon. A shame.

p.s. perhaps I have a degree of guilt in the Bork thing. I was a teenager when the Bork hearings took place. After they were over my mom mentioned him one day and I said 'that guy looks like a child molester.' She turned to my dad and said, 'see I thought the same thing!' Maybe it was the strange beard that did him in.
2.3.2009 7:28pm
Dave N (mail):
Like other posters, I suspect there is more to the withdrawal than meets the eye.

That said, if the unpaid taxes and lien are the ONLY reason she withdrew, then that is way too bad. The President (any President) is entitled to his (or her) choices absent major disqualifying conduct--of which this assuredly was not.
2.3.2009 7:34pm
dr:

After all, the Dem's did write the sexual harassment in the workplace laws which have put any number of ordinary citizens in jail.

Wow. Could you name even one ordinary citizen who is in jail for sexual harassment in the workplace?


Steve, remember "any number" includes zero.
2.3.2009 7:35pm
Steve:
I admit defeat.
2.3.2009 7:38pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
There is something else going on here. Ever notice how quickly the FBI comes up with this stuff, finding things even the prospective official didn't know about. The executive branch agencies, led by the FBI, or more accurately, their contractors (to maintain legal compliance), keep dossiers on almost everyone who might become an official. If someone is nominated they don't like, perhaps because they can't control him or her, they dig out something.

Remember Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood? Clinton's first and second choices for AG? Not acceptible to the FBI Establishment. Too clean, too independent. Not "team players". So they shot down those nominations and quietly suggested one they would pass: Janet Reno. Not because she was clean. According to James and Kenneth Collier, in their book Votescam, she was the "go-to gal" for vote fraud in Florida. They had so much on her she couldn't make a move without their consent.

This is not conjecture. Confirmed by many sources.
2.3.2009 7:46pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is -- and is often the only -- protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy ... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice."

But this of course pales in comparison to the unrestrained viciousness with which the Rethuglikkkans have impugned the integrity of Nancy Killefer.
2.3.2009 7:46pm
LM (mail):
Thorley Winston,

Sort of like how for the last seven or so years I heard a lot of people saying “don’t question my patriotism!” but not a lot of people actually questioning their patriotism.

Please. This is a relatively restrained site, and how utterly routine is it to see comments about the left wanting our enemies to win? But that's not questioning our patriotism, right? No, not according to Republicans who understand the political peril of accusing their opponents of being unpatriotic, it isn't. They're always careful to fall back on Spiro Agnew's classic disclaimer, "I am not questioning his patriotism, I'm questioning his judgment."

So when John McCain says Barack Obama would rather win an election than a war, that only questions his judgment, not his patriotism, right? Sure. It's only our bad judgment that ever gets questioned. Our bad, bad judgment to be so f***ing unpatriotic.
2.3.2009 8:01pm
Mike Mahoney (mail):
350 million people and these are the best we got?
2.3.2009 8:11pm
Lucius Cornelius:

(Disclosure: I've screwed up things like filing my estimated tax payments, and have been assessed penalties that are slightly higher than Ms. Killefer's, though that were still quite modest. It has never gotten to liens, but maybe D.C. is just more lien-happy than the IRS.)



My stars! Professor Volokh, I am a hearing officer for a state department of taxation. I am shocked to read that you are confessing to such heinous crimes as underpayment of taxes. There can be ONLY one penalty for this: DEATH!!!
2.3.2009 8:12pm
Horatio (mail):
"There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws." --Ayn Rand
2.3.2009 8:18pm
Stevie Miller III (mail):

My stars! Professor Volokh, I am a hearing officer for a state department of taxation. I am shocked to read that you are confessing to such heinous crimes as underpayment of taxes. There can be ONLY one penalty for this: DEATH!!!


You cheated, you got caught, you paid up eventually, and hopefully learned a thing or two (namely, either don't cheat -- if you did it intentionally -- or call in a professional when your screw-ups are going to cost you big both financially and perhaps down the road, professionally.

It goes to CHARACTER. Perhaps this, and other issues in your past, would keep you off the Supreme Court. Again, you cheated, you got caught, you paid the penalty. To some in the public, it affected their ideas of your character.

Play on...
2.3.2009 8:21pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
They're always careful to fall back on Spiro Agnew's classic disclaimer, "I am not questioning his patriotism, I'm questioning his judgment."

Fortunately we all know this is a canard, since no Democrat's judgment has ever been questionable.

But gosh! If ever one did have questionable judgment, there's be some awfully confused commenters around here!
2.3.2009 8:29pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"On the other hand, this is what tax professionals are for, and I would hope that people at her level would use qualified accountants/tax preparers."

We might ask why we have a expanding system of laws that makes tax professionals necessary.
2.3.2009 8:31pm
Jon Roland (mail) (www):
Back about 1951 there was a radio program in which the host asked a bunch of contestants to do a kind of treasure hunt in which they were to each go out, do various things in various places, like acquire certain objects, and report back with everything on the list. Their mandate was not to break any laws while they performed their tasks. I recall each had about 20-40 tasks.

When they got back, the host revealed that not one of them had been able to avoid breaking at least one law. But one contestant managed to break only one law. One of the tasks was to buy a pack of cigarettes, open it, take out a cigarette, and light it. Can you guess what law he broke?

He failed to tear across the stamp on the end of the pack. It was a crime to open a pack without breaking the seal stamp.
2.3.2009 8:37pm
Mac (mail):
Steve,

Sorry, I don't remember name, date and serial number. I do remember a Psychiatrist (female) who lost her Doctor's license and spent time in jail for having sex with a male patient as well as a number of others who had been caught in this law and lost their license, if they had one, and went to jail. They were on the news when the "Clinton it was only about sex" stuff was going on. I am one of those people who has one hell of a time remembering names. I have a hard time remembering the name of someone I just met. You want me to go back a decade or more? Sorry. Can't do it. I do know that they were none too happy to hear that it was only about sex when they had gone to jail and lost their licenses that they needed to support themselves.

My dentist, for a very, very short time, in Kansas City, was caught sexually harassing his patients. The psychiatrist for the police dept. was charged with having sex with his patients and subsequently committed suicide. There are many other cases I can think of. It happens all the time. It is almost too numerous to mention. Who was that Republican in Oregon who was harassing his secretaries? The idiot, as I recall, kept a diary.

I don't have time to Google it. Got to go pack for a trip tomorrow. Lord, it surely should not be too hard to find professionals and bosses who abused their position and sexually harassed their staff and got caught up in this law.

You are not suggesting that the Democrats wrote a law to protect people from a crime that is never committed are you?

Seriously, I am being humorous, but it is no joke to the victims. People in authority over others should never sexually harass or abuse their subordinates or their clients or their prisoners, in the case of police officers.
2.3.2009 8:39pm
TA:
"Is this really the way we can get the best people for government jobs?"

Screening out people who don't pay their taxes seems like a very good way of getting the best people.
2.3.2009 8:52pm
Lea (mail):

What's excusable about failing to pay a (properly served) parking ticket on time? I've received two parking tickets in my life, and they both clearly stated the date by which payment was due.


Well, sometimes parking tickets actually fly off or are lifted by jerks. Also, sometimes DC charges you an extra 20/40 bucks when your parking ticket comes in the mail a day late and never informs you. Sometimes both of those things happen and you get a boot, because government sucks.
2.3.2009 9:10pm
Michael B (mail):
"So when John McCain says Barack Obama would rather win an election than a war, that only questions his judgment, not his patriotism, right?"

Yes. In fact, very much so.

Judgement is something that can be subjected, at least in large part, to historical/empirical and rational review. It typically cannot be reduced to simple, deductive proofs, but it can be subjected to empirical/rational review with some mutually agreed upon criteria.

By contrast, patriotism is much more subjective and emotionally burdened. Three or four examples:

1) Hence, contrast the judgement inhering to Petraeus's surge strategy as compared to Obama's January 31, 2007 legislative initiative that would have cut the legs out from under Petraeus's surge strategy before it even had an opportunity to be attempted.

2) Hence, Obama's Carter-like forays into foreign affairs with Iran's regime - v. here, here, here and here for commentary.

3) Hence Obama reinstating Samantha Power within his circle and administration - an extraordinarily dubious move given Power's own dubious judgement (e.g., brief youTube of Samantha Power, contrast it with this and this, though many other contrasting subjects could readily be invoked to place Power's naivete, myopia or whatever it is in perspective).

4) He's even begun to retract notable aspects of his Afghanistan rhetoric, so prominent as long as it could be used on the campaign trail - but now certain realities need to be concidered ...

5) Likewise, reminiscent of Clinton's "peace dividend," that presumed dividend that was sandwiched between the end of the Cold War and 9/11, Obama is also indicating a 10% reduction in military expenditures (I believe this is right, am going by memory on this one).

Barack "Mr. Change" Obama - in all of that, is reflecting a Carter-esque naivete to a striking degree, not that the western MSM is calling attention to that fact. We don't need Jimmy Carter II, not domestically in terms of a Trillion Dollar (TD™) spending package and certainly not at applied to Iran and elsewhere. Obama needs an education, and on-the-job training is not the preferred model.

Further, as with Jimmy Carter I, all of that concerns itself with judgement, not the far more loaded ideas and values that inhere to patriotism.

File under: We Don't Need Jimmy Carter II
2.3.2009 9:27pm
Hoosier:
All Over $947

[In 10 years, this will be the headline for a post about university press books.]
2.3.2009 9:37pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hoosier.
I worked in a campus bookstore in the sixties. The bosses told us they made more on a three-dollar stuffed animal than on an eleven dollar textbook.
Adjusting for inflation, the same is probably still the case.
2.3.2009 10:07pm
Potted Plant (mail):
Michael B -- The difference between questioning judgment and patriotism lies in the motives one ascribes to the person being judged. One might say that Obama's opposition to the surge was wrong-headed or even stupid (which would be questioning his judgment), but to say that he'd rather win an election than win a war certainly brings motivation into the issue, which does question his patriotism.

Patriotism -- not judgment -- was the issue every time supporters of the Iraq War accused war opponents of being apologists for Saddam Hussein, or argued that dissent amounted to giving aid to the enemy.
2.3.2009 10:32pm
Randy R. (mail):
"I don't know of anyone who thinks that his video rental records played any role in his rejection. "

Just to clarify, it was NOT the democrats who investigated Bork's video rentals. It was the Washington City Paper. At the time, there was no law that protected the privacy of your rentals. they published his video list, and the reaction was pretty strong from all sides: Everyone thought this was an unconscionable invasion of privacy. Very quickly, a law was passed that made it a crime to release your list of rentals.

Ironically, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, special prosecutor Kenneth Starr issued subpeoanas from local libraries and bookstores seeking to know what books Lewinsky bought or read. That was, and still is, perfectly legal. It prompted a local bookstore, Kramerbooks &Afterwords, to issue t-shirts to their employees printed "Subpeoaned for Selling Books"

So I don't think anyone should get all indignant over Bork's violation of privacy by a journalist unless you are also indignant over Starr's tactics.
2.3.2009 10:40pm
wyswyg:

Who was that Republican in Oregon who was harassing his secretaries? The idiot, as I recall, kept a diary.



You are probably thinking of Senator Bob Packwood. Some women came forward to claim that he'd patted them on the behind twenty years previously.

The Democrats, who were then posing as the defenders of women from powerful predatory men, booted him from the Senate.

A few years later, as we all know, they took a rather more "liberal" view of such behavior. Only an uptight moralistic prude could object if a politican dropped trou in front of a female subordinate.
2.3.2009 11:00pm
Anon21:
Mike G in Corvallis:
"Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is -- and is often the only -- protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy ... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice."

But this of course pales in comparison to the unrestrained viciousness with which the Rethuglikkkans have impugned the integrity of Nancy Killefer.

As I said above, a straightforward political attack. Kennedy gives examples of Bork's views and tendentiously projects their consequences; he makes the implicit assertion that Bork's judicial views are too radical to be acceptable to the American public. What he does not do, and what Senate Democrats in the Bork case generally did not do, is rely on alleged personal improprieties to sink the Bork nomination. You could argue that that's because Bork was squeaky clean, which is all well and good, but totally irrelevant. Happyshooter's original assertion is that Democrats "started this game" during the Bork confirmation hearings, and I pointed out that the tactics used on that occasion really don't really relate at all to those used against Geithner and Daschle (Killefer was not subjected to the same tactics, but had a reasonable apprehension that she would be, which caused her to withdraw her nomination), save for the fact that both tactics are employed to block a nomination.

You can argue that what Senate Democrats did to Bork was worse than what Senate Republicans did to Daschle, or might have done to Killefer. You can argue that Bork's views ought not to have been controversial, because you believe them to be correct, whereas most everyone agrees that failing to pay one's taxes is a bad thing. What you cannot argue, at least not convincingly, is that Democrats in any way originated the now-common practice of blocking nominations based on small personal controversies during the Bork nomination fight.
2.3.2009 11:03pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
"So when John McCain says Barack Obama would rather win an election than a war, that only questions his judgment, not his patriotism, right?"


John McCain never said that.
2.3.2009 11:07pm
Vermando (mail) (www):
"I'd feel more sympathy for her if I was convinced that her fellows of similar politics were not responsible for the awful laws that make up our tax code."

Collective punishment, seriously? Ugh.
2.3.2009 11:21pm
Anon21:
Thorley Winston:
John McCain never said that.

Given that the post you're quoting did not use quotation marks, and given that McCain did say Obama "apparently...would rather lose a war in order to win a campaign," how would you defend your comment as an example of anything other than rank dishonesty?
2.3.2009 11:21pm
dr:

John McCain never said that.


”When we adopted the surge, we were losing the war in Iraq, and I stood up and said I would rather lose a campaign than lose a war,” McCain told reporters.

”Apparently Sen. Obama, who does not understand what’s happening in Iraq or fails to acknowledge the success in Iraq, would rather lose a war than lose a campaign.
2.3.2009 11:23pm
davod (mail):
"You can argue that what Senate Democrats did to Bork was worse than what Senate Republicans did to Daschle,.."

What did the Republicans do?
2.4.2009 12:22am
Dave N (mail):
What you cannot argue, at least not convincingly, is that Democrats in any way originated the now-common practice of blocking nominations based on small personal controversies during the Bork nomination fight.
Arguably, the politicization of the Supreme Court started with the filibuster of Abe Fortas (though it was bipartsian)or perhaps the defeat of Clement Haynsworth as Associate Justice.

But then again, perhaps not, since both had substantial bipartisan opposition and support.
2.4.2009 1:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Every other virtue or lack thereof is noised about. Why should questioning patriotism be off limits?
Good point about questioning judgment, but eventually some of our judgments run into the real world and can be judged. If you continue doing things which are counterproductive while loudly claiming some benign motivation, questioning judgment vs. questioning motivation runs about fifty-fifty, tending toward motivation.
And there are real world effects of various actions. Trying to keep the US from invading Iraq did have the effect of continuing SH in power. I suppose you could worry about the motivation, but the effect was unquestionable. If one presumes that SH was a problem to be dealt with sooner or later--later being worse--then motivation is a legitimate question.
Not everybody is Bill Ayers, but he's not alone.
2.4.2009 7:35am
LM (mail):
2.4.2009 8:32am
pluribus:
Thorley Winston, you have been caught lying. What do you say about that?
2.4.2009 8:38am
Houston Lawyer:
What the Democrats did do to Bork was get a record of every movie he had rented. Since Bork was squeaky clean, this list didn't include any howlers. Shortly following his rejection, Congress passed a law outlawing the disclosure of this type of information.
2.4.2009 9:21am
Happyshooter:
So I don't think anyone should get all indignant over Bork's violation of privacy by a journalist unless you are also indignant over Starr's tactics.

I am. I think both should be off limits, by force of law if necessary.

The thing I don't like just is much is the dem's habit of lying about their conduct every time they do this:

"It wasn't the party who...

got Bork's video records, it was a dem paper.

leaked on Joe the Plumber, it was a mid level offical who by mere happenstance is a dem.

got a smear going on Justice Thomas, it was a caring party activist.

went after Packwood, it was activist women who care.

Blah....
2.4.2009 9:24am
LN (mail):
Hey zombie brains -- I provided a link above to an account of the Bork video rental story by the City Paper reporter who actually got the records.

A colleague mentioned that Bork had been seen at a local video store; the guy went in and asked for Bork's history, and got it. This wasn't illegal at the time. (I mean, it's not like there's a right to privacy in the Constitution.)

Yeah yeah, this guy was clearly a Democratic operative. I mean, he wrote for a local paper, and local papers are just staffed by Democratic operatives, right? The fact that Bork's no one really cared about rental history just PROVES that it was a sinister politically-motivated attack, right?

I mean, it's just such a blatant abuse of POLITICAL power to walk into a video store and say "Could I get a list of movies that so-and-so rented?" Similarly, I hate it when Democrats abuse their political power to tell me that Paris Hilton was spotted at a particular nightclub. It really gets my blood boiling.

But then I don't really expect this to sink in the brains of Republican Party operatives.
2.4.2009 11:02am
Anon21:
Happyshooter:
"It wasn't the party who...

got Bork's video records, it was a dem paper.

Sorry, but it would really help me to understand your position if you could explain how the Washington City Paper is a "dem paper." You're accusing Democrats (or, more accurately in the instant case, commenters in this thread) of lying about the source of certain actions, but providing no evidence that the account offered is in any way factually incorrect.

As for the Thomas case, I haven't seen anyone deny that it was Democrats who fanned the flames of the scandal that almost kept him off the Court. But you'd have to make an argument that it was somehow illegitimate. If the allegations against him were accurate, that would have been reason enough to reject his nomination. Whether the allegations were accurate is a separate question, but probably most of the Democrats pushing the charges believed them to be accurate.

In the case of Packwood, it was former staffers whom he had sexually harassed. Given that Packwood was a Republican, probably most of the women who worked for him in his political offices were too, at least at some point. If some of them later changed party affiliations, that was probably more Packwood's fault than anyone else's, wouldn't you say?
2.4.2009 11:22am
Some guy:
Lord, it surely should not be too hard to find professionals and bosses who abused their position and sexually harassed their staff and got caught up in this law.


I dunno, it seemed impossible for you. You do know that we don't throw people in jail for unpaid civil judgments, right?

I guarantee that if you do somehow find someone who went to jail, they were charged with sexual assault. I don't think criminalizing rape is a liberal conspiracy.
2.4.2009 11:29am
Katl L (mail):
Weimberger resign over 1000 $ in a safe.
First pick for Scotus by Bush: cheated on one law test in first year
2nd: smoked pot
3rd : Bork ,wrote articles critizing roe vs wade and Grinswold
Geraldine Ferraro grilled because her husband didnt paid some taxes
Gary Hart cheated on his wife
Two Clinton picks for DOJ : hired an ilegall allien as nanny.

But Clinton didnt inhale so he was fine
He cheated on his wife, she didnt care , he was fine
The bar was rised in the 80s and lowwered when baby boomer discovered that smoking pot makes not fit for an executive joball person born in the 50s
The rule is only for the executive you can be an impeached corrupt judge and be elected to the House
Greitner was confirmed , for far less Pete Rose served a jail sentence
2.4.2009 12:24pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Thank you dr for providing the actual quote particularly the part about “[Senator Obama] does not understand what’s happening in Iraq or fails to acknowledge the success in Iraq” which supports Michael B’s position that McCain was in fact questioning Obama’s judgment rather than his patriotism.
2.4.2009 12:25pm
ser (mail):
Last week a woman went to jail over a book due in the library.That is reallyharsh
The Caesar´s wife must be not only honest but lokk honest
2.4.2009 12:29pm
dr:
Thorley, you're welcome. And you're also welcome for providing the rest of the quote -- the part where McCain questions Obama's patriotism.

(Unless you believe it's NOT unpatriotic to wish for America to lose a war so that you can gain politically.)
2.4.2009 12:32pm
Happyshooter:
You do know that we don't throw people in jail for unpaid civil judgments, right?

Maybe in your state they don't. I just got a bench warrant this week on a debtor for not complying with the creditor's exam I scheduled.

We also get the bond set in the amount of the judgment.

It looks and smells a lot like debtor's prison to me.
2.4.2009 1:59pm
David Larsomn (mail):
Dr I don't understand what your problem is. Surely you're not suggesting that Obama actually would have sacrificed a win in the presidential campaign if to do so would have "won the war?" If so, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona I'd love to sell to you.....
2.4.2009 5:17pm
LM (mail):
Thorley, meet David Larsomn. That makes at least two people on this thread alone who are still willing do their questioning in public. If you didn't hear much of this for seven years, a visit to the audiologist may be in order.
2.4.2009 6:27pm
David Larsomn (mail):
LM:

I'm sorry, are we not allowed to point out that the Emperor (God-Emperor?) has no clothes on?
2.4.2009 6:34pm
LM (mail):
DL,

You're allowed to point out anything you want. I'm just pointing you out to someone who seemed to doubt many people like you exist.
2.4.2009 6:47pm
dr:
David Larsomn,

It would be a big help if you would just come right out and say that you believe that Barack Obama hates America. Thorley Winston is asserting that Obama's critics don't actually make this accusation in public, and we appreciate your willingness to serve as a counter-illustration on this point. I know you're saying it without saying it, but for clarity's sake, please go ahead and say it.

Thanks much.
2.4.2009 6:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
There are several possibilities wrt O and patriotism, besides the possibility that he's right up there with George Washington.
One is that his judgment tells him that a dem win is worth a peripheral loss in the foreign policy arena, even if that's a war.
Another is that he doesn't care.
And another is that he hates America.
Absent finding oneself on the insider's mailing list, it's not likely that anybody will have anything on his motivation.
That leaves questioning his judgment. My position is that a loss in the foreign policy arena, especially in a war, is a big deal, and not worth a dem win.
YMMV. And probably does.
2.4.2009 7:18pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Back to the original point of the thread:
How's this for a standard?
If you have moral, criminal, legal, financial or mental issues that would disqualify you from being commissioned a second lieutenant, you are not qualified to hold higher office.
Otherwise, we'd be in position of having significantly higher qualifications for shavetails than for their commander, or the cabinet officers....
But, then, that's always been the case.
Why don't we change it?
2.4.2009 7:21pm
dr:

Absent finding oneself on the insider's mailing list, it's not likely that anybody will have anything on his motivation.


Tell it to Larsomn. And McCain. And Richard Aubrey. Oh wait.



YMMV. And probably does.


yeah.
2.4.2009 7:30pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
dr. Absent being on an insider's mailing list, how are you going to prove anything about O's motivation, or anybody's for that matter?
O was not only wrong about the surge, he was repeatedly wrong, in the face of evidence. So were his buddies who were so pessimistic that they sounded hopeful. But you can't prove anything.
Maybe if they quit drooling at the mention of a US defeat it would be better PR.
So, dr, would you be willing to sacrifice your side's (presume left/dem) campaign victory if losing meant winning a war?
2.4.2009 7:47pm
dr:

dr. Absent being on an insider's mailing list, how are you going to prove anything about O's motivation, or anybody's for that matter?


Dunno, Richard. But I haven't made ANY assertions about the motivations for President Obama's policy stances. And absent a wormhole into his brain, I assume that they're based on, you know, a genuine belief in the rightness of those policies.

And yes, I afford that same assumption to President Bush. I assumed, and assume, that he believed all his policy choices to be good ones. Even when I disagree with them, I assume he's genuine.

You, on the other hand, are the one suggesting that there's reason to doubt Obama's motivations. Or am I misunderstanding the meaning of "motivation is a legitimate question"?

So perhaps you should be answering the question.

Either way, you've been a fantastic illustration for Thorley, and I thank you.
2.4.2009 7:58pm
nicehonesty:
Oct. 4, 2007:

"You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin," Obama said. "Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq War, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest.


I hate how Republicans like Barack Obama were always questioning their opponents' patriotism and impugning their motives for doing something.
2.5.2009 12:06am
LN (mail):
Hilarious how someone claims that they hadn't heard any genuine outcry about Michael Phelps smoking pot, and there's a straight progression to pointing out how Obama has questioned the patriotism of his opponents.
2.5.2009 1:06am
Hoosier:
Otherwise, we'd be in position of having significantly higher qualifications for shavetails than for their commander, or the cabinet officers....
But, then, that's always been the case.
Why don't we change it?


Because we still let the voters decide whom they'll elect. I sometimes just wish they'd take it a bit more seriously.
2.5.2009 6:52am
Hoosier:
YMMV

Is that like "YHWH"?

Enough of the Hebrew. Just speak American, OK?
2.5.2009 6:54am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hoosier.
The only Hebrew I ever knew was the Sh'ma. I memorized that phonetically, along with the 23d and the Act of Contrition when I got my Infantry commission. If I'd had any prospect of Muslims in my unit, I'd have memorized whatever they do at the last.

"Your Mileage May Vary".

So it's good to presume the righteous motivation, but from time to time the sequence of actions which run counter to the professed motivations causes one to wonder.

And then there's the defintion of patriotism. Is it good for the US to lose a war in order to become more humble?
2.5.2009 7:44am
Ben Franklin (mail):
I don't have a problem with this sort of nitpicking about past sins because it has the happy consequence of keeping the position unfilled that much longer. In the battle against the ever expanding tyranny that is the federal government sometimes a holding action is the best one can hope for.
2.5.2009 9:09am
Lyle (mail):
She didn't have to give up so easily.
2.5.2009 2:09pm
Michael B (mail):
"Patriotism -- not judgment -- was the issue every time supporters of the Iraq War accused war opponents of being apologists for Saddam Hussein, or argued that dissent amounted to giving aid to the enemy." Potted Plant

No, it wasn't, and your reductionist, tendentious, presumptive assertion to the contrary doesn't make it so.

Look, I'm not attempting to be disrespectful on a personal level, but there are a variety of factors at issue in all this, factors that include 1) the uses mundane political assumptions and rhetoric are put to, 2) the fact that judgement and patriotism cannot be viewed in a simple, discrete manner in the first place and even 3) the entire set of problems associated with human perceptions in the first place, which include a subset of philosophical conundrums (e.g., as reflected in Merleau-Ponty's "The Phenomenology of Perception" or, more briefly, "The Visible and the Invisible").
2.5.2009 5:00pm

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