Saturday, November 15, 2008

In Defense of the Obama Application

What if John Edwards was chosen to be Poverty Czar or Attorney General by the Obama Administration and then it was revealed that he had an affair? Or what if the affair came to light during the vetting process?

This is what I ask myself as I see grumblings and outrage over the news this week that the Obama transition team has asked prospective applicants for cabinet or other high ranking positions to fill out what some are calling an extensive and even invasive questionnaire.

Jesse Wendel, Group News Blog:

Like it makes sense to give professional political operatives, HR people no less, your deepest, darkest, most personal secrets, along with your medical and tax records going back years. Then TRUST THEM. Because they work for the President-Elect, so they won't fuck you over, no Sir, nuh-uh.
Other than the on the transition website, which goes further than the Bush Administration's, there's no assurance, absolutely none that they won't use everything you tell them to fuck you...

...So go ahead, hand some 20-30 year old political staff the political equivalent of blackmail video-tapes of you having a torrid affair with Bill O'Reilly, surrounded by luffas and candy you stole from children.

Wendel goes on to say that it's all about checks and balances.
"No one should be forced to submit to political vetting (and trust their public identity to non-existent assurances that their identity won't be destroyed by a trial balloon or a tactical leak for political purposes by the Obama team) on hiring decisions PRIOR to initial hiring."
He uses the phrase "tactical leak for political purposes" immediately after after saying how he knows some of the people on the transition team and trusts them deeply.

Wendel doesn't like the idea of the untrained eye - this is the first Obama Administration after all - going over personal information and compares it to the FBI's years of experience, as if the FBI has a pristine record and would never use information for political purposes. He calls it hypocrisy, something the Republicans would do, and even questions the legality of it.

Is this even legal? I know it wouldn't be anywhere else. Or is this another one of those bullshit situations where the Executive and Congress have exempted themselves from the same laws the rest of the United States must live under. Because if I were hiring people for GNB, I sure as shit couldn't ask a potential hire these questions and base hiring decisions on them. I'd get my ass sued and rightly so.

...If President-Elect Obama with his cocaine use is too much of a chicken-shit to use me and grownups like me, then really, he and the transition team can shove it up their hypocritical asses.

Well, I think you've just blown your chance with that last paragraph, Jesse. And by the way, you're wrong about the legal issue, but we'll get to that in a second. I get where you're coming from but you gotta lighten up.

Let's go back to my initial hypothetical question. Imagine if Edwards was chosen as AG and then the affair came out because there wasn't full disclosure? Game. Fucking. Over. While some see this questionnaire as over the line, and while it may be overprotective, I think it's a smart move on the Obama team's part because of all the bullshit attacks they need to defend themselves from daily just on the stuff that's made up. The last thing they need is to put out fires in their administration before getting off the ground.

As far as the legality of the application, here's a comment from "Myrtle Hussein June":
In 1980 I worked for a government contractor on the space shuttle mission at an air force base. I had to fill out a 10 year history, not unlike Obama's questions except no e-mail/internet stuff, for a security clearance and had to pass a drug test for that job.

Today, where I currently work, every single applicant has to submit to a 10 year background check/security.... for a state university. Every single person no matter the position.

Another blogger just got hired and reported having to answer some highly personal questions.

So, it's not JUST the Obama application or just for the federal government. I think no matter where you go these days there are more and more "security" measures connected with getting employment. Thank you Patriot Act.

... I'm applying to the Obama admin, got the app right here. I'm going to fill it out honestly. I'm not going to judge anything I've ever said or done to qualify as being an "embarrassment" to Obama. It just is what it is.

I don't think it's "chicken-shit"; I think it's the laws that have been passed. It's the crazy right wing extremists, or maybe left wing extremists, they're looking out for. And no, I don't consider fighting for our country to take a hard left BACK to the center "extremist" of any sort. I don't think they do either. The Obama transition team is NOT the Bush Administration.

Sorry, I don't think this is all that unusual for government workers. At least, that's not been my experience since 1980.

And that's how I see it as well - you can't be too careful when there's a world of wingnuts looking for that one opportunity to stab you in the back 24/7. Is it a little over the top? Perhaps. But if more than a little intrusion into your privacy when applying for a government job in a post 9/11 America is not your cup of tea, then don't apply. No one is forcing you to divulge information. If you've got nothing to hide then go for it; if you know you have skeletons in your closet that you don't want people to find out about but still want a job in politics, then go work for the RNC. Apply or don't apply - it's up to the applicant and they have full knowledge of what's being asked of them before they apply.

It's also matter of getting things done in a straight forward, organized fashion. Remember that the Obama camp dubbed the President-elect, "No drama Obama." It's not just a catchphrase. They don't abide any distracting bullshit. It rarely happened during their campaign, but the second there was a distraction - like foreign policy advisor Samantha Power calling Clinton a monster for example - she was gone before the end of the day. Look at how the delayed reaction regarding the Rev. Wright mess affected the campaign. It took weeks for them to shake that off. If you don't nip it in the bud early enough, all you'll be doing is fighting off bullshit distractions and never concentrate on real issues. Case in point is the McCain camp for fuck's sake - they got a poll bump from the Sarah Palin pick and then when she became the distraction, they couldn't get rid of her and they sunk like a stone.

I might tend to lean more towards Wendel's argument if the Obama Administration were walking into a "peace and prosperity" White House, but let's face it: shit has never been more fucked up than it is now and they have to hit the ground running. This will just narrow the search earlier than later. It'll shoo away those that are hesitant to apply if they think they have something to hide and cull the herd. Also, no one's 100% kosher, and I'm sure that having something on your record like a traffic violation isn't going to automatically disqualify you, but it's not so bad that it'll ruin your career if it should be nefariously leaked.

Now for those who thought Barack Obama was a lefty liberal's dream, one only need look at the FISA vote long before the election took place, or the $700 billion bailout approval to tell you that with Obama you get a pragmatist who is maybe just slightly left of center on issues that have broad bipartisan appeal. We all knew that coming in and anyone who thought he was a 21st century Che Guevara was deluding themselves.

We can't lose sight of the bigger picture. Change doesn't come in eight days. We just broke the Ronald Reagan deathgrip on this country for the last 28 years - it can't all happen in one day. Baby steps. Already there are those who are pissed at Obama for the Rahm Emanuel pick, or the possibility of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, or the incredibly invasive application questionnaire. But I think I might wait til maybe Inauguration Day before I start flying off the handle. The fact that his was one of the best run campaigns in American politics wasn't a happy accident. I doubt that his entire staff went "Teh Stupid" on November 5th.

But like I said, I just don't think they can be too careful with all the loonies out there. It's not like they're trolling for information to hold against you like the other side does (see 'illegal wiretapping'). And yes, ultimately we don't know who peeks into those files, so if you like instant messaging minors in a sexual fashion, if you rail against gays while picking up men in airport bathroom stalls, if you killed someone and buried them in your backyard, then maybe you shouldn't fill out an application. But if you think you have what it takes, still like your mom and don't fuck your cat Fluffy on a Saturday night bender, then go for it! Make change happen!


Armadillo Hussein Joe said...

I do agree, though, that I feel more triumphant in the FACT of Obama's victory with regards to his skin color and name than in the man himself. He's smart and I think he's ultimately a moral being, if still a politician. I believe he will ultimately do the right thing, even if that thing will usually piss me off.

Armadillo Hussein Joe said...

This application thing is just the first of many things that Obama will do that will anger me. In the end, tho, he is still acting to do the right thing, which cannot be said of the current occupant of the White House