Honeymoon-Over Watch: Campbell Brown Cites Obama "Hypocrisy"

As I’ve said before, I expect now that Obama is safely ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the cutthroat competitiveness of the news media is going to drive more and more reporters to go after the only President we have.

Campbell Brown has a show on CNN called “No Bias, No Bull.” When you market yourself that way, you have to be prepared to smack down anybody, “without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved,” in the immortal words that used to guide The New York Times. To her credit, Brown is a rare example of a mainstream journalist who actually took a hard shot at Obama before the election — dinging him for rejecting campaign finance limits once it became clear that Obama’s fund-raising power was much greater than McCain’s. She even quoted an Obama supporter saying the flip-flop met the definition of a “hypocrite.”

She raised the stakes in a commentary on last night’s show, using the H word without the fig leaf of attributing it to someone else. The piece, which describes how the administration is seeking a waiver from its own restrictions on hiring lobbyists, is available today on CNN.com, under a headline “Commentary: Obama’s Hypocrisy is Showing.”

Mr. President, if you want to hire former lobbyists because you think they are the best people to do the job, then hire former lobbyists. Just don’t hold a big news conference first to tell us how your administration is going to be so different from previous administrations in that you won’t be hiring lobbyists.

Don’t make your disdain for lobbyists and your pledges that they won’t wield influence in your administration a centerpiece of your campaign.

It’s the hypocrisy and the double-talk that makes so many of us so cynical. Do what you think is best for the country. Just be straight with us about how you’re going to do it.

(To be clear, there was a flurry of commentary when the administration first sought a waiver to the lobbying rules just a day after promulgating them. But this is the first time I’ve seen such sharp criticism on the issue from a nominally nonpartisan source.)

While the revolving door between government and lobbyists can be unseemly, lobbying is a form of free speech. Some regulation of lobbying is appropriate, and government officials need to make a special effort to seek out the opinions of people and groups that cannot afford a fancy office on K Street. But the reason why lobbyists are able to command high salaries for plying their trade is that they have substantial expertise in the ways of Washington and the business interests of their employer — it would make little sense to exclude such people from the government completely.

Interestingly, the lobbyist that sparked Brown’s commentary is intended to be chief of staff for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. I haven’t returned to the subject of Geithner since writing, just after the tax controversy first surfaced, that I didn’t think his tax “peccadillos” should sink his candidacy. Geithner has been confirmed, but I’ve changed my mind about his suitability for the office he now holds. The turning point for me was reading the objections of the three Senate Democrats who voted against his confirmation. As Sen. Tom Harkin said:

He has stated this was an innocent mistake and that there was no intent to deliberately avoid paying the required taxes. However, the IMF informs us that in order to avoid exactly this kind of situation, its U.S. citizen employees are fully informed of their obligation to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes and must sign a form acknowledging that they understand this obligation.

Moreover, the IMF gives its U.S. citizen employees quarterly wage statements that detail their U.S. tax liabilities. The IMF pays its U.S. citizen employees an amount equal to the employer’s half of the payroll taxes with the expectation that the individual will use that money to pay the IRS.

Geithner failed to pay the required taxes for four successive years. When the problem was discovered, he was billed for back taxes only for the last two of those years, because the IRS statute of limitations had passed on the earlier two years. He finally settled up for the earlier two years only after being nominated as Treasury Secretary.

I hope this guy does a really good job managing the financial crisis. Even if he does, I don’t think it will be enough to justify the fact that the man we’ve put in charge of overseeing the IRS appears to be a tax cheat.

(Photos: CNN.com; Geithner swearing in from LA Times)

Honeymoon-Over Watch: Obama Treasury Secretary Draws Scrutiny on Taxes

Joe owed a hell of a lot less tax than Timothy Geithner.

(Instalanche! Welcome Instapundit readers, and readers from TigerHawk and Living al Dente.)

There’s already plenty of opposition to Obama in the right-wing fever swamps of the Internets, of course. (I would link that sentence to Ann Coulter’s site, but she’s such a cartoon character, I don’t want my vast audience to give her any traffic. That’ll fix her.)

But eventually, even mainstream media outlets will turn their guns on the man who, in the eternal formulation of insider Washington, will become known as “this President.” No matter how much the media was in the tank for Obama during the campaign, no matter how enthusiastic they were in celebrating the coming of BAM-A-LOT, eventually Obama and his Administration will make missteps that even the most liberal papers cannot ignore.

We’re not there yet, but there are early signs. In the current dust-up over Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s tax problems, even the left-wing Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial page has admitted there is a double standard. “We can only imagine what we would have said had Geithner been a Bush appointee,” the paper editorialized. As if worried that the Obama Fan Club might revoke the paper’s decoder ring, the editorial quickly added: “Should this news derail the nomination? Probably not.” (Hat tip: Taranto)

As it happens, I agree that the news should “probably not” derail the nomination. The position is critically important, and Geithner seems to have done an outstanding job coping with the financial crisis as President of the NY Federal Reserve. But Taranto points out that Geithner actually accepted reimbursement from his employer for self-employment taxes that he did not pay, which if true makes it seem more serious than a mere mistake.

The starkest irony in this is the difference between the journalistic soft shoe over the tax problems of the man nominated as head tax collector, compared with the instant feeding frenzy that erupted during the campaign over minor tax issues when an ordinary citizen posed a challenging question to The One.

The difference now, of course, is that journalists no longer have to worry that Obama might lose the election. Now the natural competitiveness of the news media will begin to overwhelm partisanship, at least until the 2012 race heats up. The honeymoon isn’t over yet, and it certainly won’t end before the Inaugural. But starting next Tuesday (ok maybe Wednesday), when President Obama doesn’t bring the troops home, doesn’t close Guantanamo, doesn’t end the recession, doesn’t deliver national health insurance, doesn’t roll back global warming and make the oceans recede — or at least doesn’t do any of these things as fast as the Left would like — then things like the peccadillos of Tim Geithner will start to get more coverage.

Woman Bites Candidate on CNN

I just set the DVR to record Obama’s half-hour, blanket-the-airwaves infomercial, since I’ll be out when it airs. It’s a good reminder that I wanted to blog about a woman-bites-candidate story I saw on CNN.

I first became aware of the existence of Campbell Brown when she questioned the significance of Sarah Palin’s role as commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard. It struck me as a fair line of questioning, albeit certainly aggressive, but the McCain camp reacted by canceling McCain’s appearance with fellow CNN talking head Larry King. That’ll fix ’em!

To her credit, this week Campbell proved she can jump ugly in both directions:

One year ago, [Obama] made a promise. He pledged to accept public financing and to work with the Republican nominee to ensure that they both operated within those limits.

Then it became clear to Sen. Obama and his campaign that he was going to be able to raise on his own far more cash than he would get with public financing. So Obama went back on his word.

She even quoted an Obama supporter using the word “hypocrite” in describing the situation. You go, girl!

After a lively conversation in the comments of an earlier post, I’m tempted to go through Campbell Brown’s commentary line by line and look for anything that might be interpreted as “racial code,” but I suspect both she and her editors did that beforehand. If she were commentating on Fox News, people would be straining to find dog-whistle language in it.

And speaking of dogs and strained metaphors, my “woman-bites-candidate” reference is not racial code — it’s poking fun at left-leaning media.