Thursday, February 26, 2009


I can just picture the smiles on the faces of my fellow Democrats as Governor Jindal concluded his address Tuesday night. We were all witnessing an implosion. It was as if the Republican Party was blowing up before our very eyes – an old relic, once great, but now way out of date. And finally, it was saying goodbye. Like an old football stadium that once hosted the Super Bowl but can no longer support a viable franchise in today’s economy, the dynamite had already been planted, and the time had come for the chairs, the stairs, and everything else in the building to explode … to make way for the condos that would take their place.

Of course, there’s only one problem with that analogy. Usually, when a stadium is destroyed, there’s a replacement – something more state-of-the-art, and probably not too far away. This one venue may be gone, but the franchise lives on … and the competition will be as fierce as ever. I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly how I felt Tuesday night.

At 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, when President Obama was well into his speech, you couldn’t help but be spellbound. Even the conservative pundits lauded his oratorical skills. Some even called it “Reaganesque,” which is like me comparing a modern philosopher to Spinoza – praise just doesn’t get any higher.

After Barack finished and the shouting ended, it was time for Bobby Jindal to give the Republican response. Man did he make an impression. Like many blue-blooded Americans, my television was turned to MSNBC, and on that network, Jindal couldn’t even get out his first words before someone sighed “Oh God.” It was loud enough that you couldn’t mistake the statement. As we’ve since learned, the speaker was Chris Matthews, who was viscerally reacting to the amateurish stagecraft. Little did he know that the visuals would turn out to be the best thing about the speech.

For starters, Bobby Jindal sounded like one of those inarticulate high school students struggling to enunciate his words during a presentation. The contrast between him and that other fresh-faced Republican, the one who shoots moose, couldn’t have been starker. Call Sarah Palin what you want – “a hyper-ambitious, small-minded, parochial, demagogue” works for me – but the woman can give a speech. She’s got natural talent as a thespian. Jindal, though, was obviously out of his element with every word he managed painfully to pronounce. “Oh God” is right.

And then, there was the speech’s content.

To rebut the soaring hopes of an Obama, Jindal gave a tribute to the word reactionary. He so wanted to turn back the clock to a time of small government, a time when Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” gently escorted us to prosperity. It mattered not that this nation has historically turned to its government to lead us from a precipice; Jindal was trapped in the days of Coolidge or Harding. Over and over again, Jindal described government as a villain and tax cuts as a bromide. In that regard, he didn’t exactly warrant points for originality. But there was one original moment – when he praised himself, a Republican statesman, for the sensible way he rushed to the aid of the New Orleans people during Hurricane Katrina. I bet you never thought you’d hear a speech where someone could boast about the Republican reaction to Katrina, but Jindal couldn’t resist the temptation. He was just so damned proud of himself.

Little did Jindal know the irony of his references to Katrina. For it was in the same flat speech Tuesday night when Jindal, striving to come up with examples of Government overspending in the recent stimulus package, cited “$140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’” Amazing. One minute he’s patting himself on the back for coming to the rescue of Louisiana residents after a natural disaster, and the next minute he’s showing off his obliviousness to the needs of folks in Washington State, Hawaii, or Alaska, where natural disasters include volcano eruptions. Something tells me that his rival, Ms. Palin, would have known better.

And that last sentence, for me, pretty much says it all. The Republican Party has reached the point where even Sarah Palin looks like a shining star. The cupboard is just that bare. Some experts are now saying publicly that the party’s leader, de facto, is Rush Limbaugh. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t even Limbaugh see himself primarily as an entertainer? Isn’t that a bit like the Democratic Party being led by Keith Olbermann?

Back in the day when the Republicans controlled the courts, the House, the Senate and the White House, many of us Democrats yearned for the day when the GOP would render itself almost totally irrelevant. Well, now that this day is upon us, let me ask you this question: is this good for America? In a time of natural crisis, is it healthy to see one party led by a truly brilliant, if untested, politician, and another party led by, in the immortal words of soon-to-be-Senator Al Franken, a “Big, Fat Idiot”?

Hell, watching Rush Limbaugh run the GOP is like watching the Democratic Party led by … Al Franken! And no, this isn’t healthy for a democracy with a two-party system.

Here’s the problem: Obama really is a novice at his job. For his incredible talents, he has yet to demonstrate the kind of political courage needed in times like these. Maybe Obama will rise to the occasion. Maybe his budget will show the willingness to impose massive sacrifices on those who can bear them the most, and we all will be wowed by the way his substance matches his rhetoric. But as of now, there is plenty of room to be skeptical. There’s plenty of cause to fear that the Obama program will involve heaping more and more debt on future generations, while offering more and more questionable bailouts – like the horrid TARP bill that Obama supported last fall, truly an example of “trickle-down” if ever I’ve seen one.

So, if it turns out that Obama’s proposals are less than perfect … if it turns out that one or more of his economic ideas miss the mark … if it turns out, say, that he really needs to nationalize some banks but lacks the gumption to act so “socialistically” even when necessary … who is going to serve as our venerable opposition? Who will have the credibility to explain what’s wrong with what Obama is saying, and point out a sensible alternative? The Republicans? Don’t make me laugh. They cannot even trot out an adult politician when they need one.

For those of my fellow liberals who believe that the “opposition” can effectively come from the Left, don’t be so sure about that. Obama has given the Left plenty to be nervous about, particularly when it comes to his adventurism in the place known as the “Graveyard of Empires,” Afghanistan. As for Iraq, my understanding is that rather than removing virtually all the troops within 16 months, he expects to leave a contingent of 30,000-50,000 troops in that nation through much or all of 2011. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound a whole lot different than what Bush might be saying right now if he were still, perish the thought, President. But is anyone on the Left calling Obama on this commitment to nation-building halfway across the world? Is anyone questioning how, when our economy is tanking, we can possibly afford such a huge military presence in central Asia? Of course not – our “progressive” commentators are having way too much fun bashing the GOP.

Meet the new piñata – big, fat, white-male idiots (plus a token “Hockey-Mom” and the swarthy Governor from the Bayou). Given the choice between taking on those hypocrites and criticizing one of the most inspiring political talents in recent history, it’s not hard to see why Obama has the stage all to himself.

Personally, I’m still proud to have supported Barack’s candidacy, and I can’t envision a more promising statesman on the scene today. But now is not a time for a dictatorship, no matter how “benign” the leader. Democracy requires dissent to improve upon other forms of government, and dissenters require credibility to serve their venerable role in a democracy. Who in the Republican Party – the Party of pork and deficits when in power and fiscal conservatism when they’re not – has the least bit of credibility right now? None that I can think of. Instead, they have left us with the image of Governors like Jindal – inarticulate, pandering to the hard-right, and ultimately unable even to make a simple political statement. Jindal, you see, bashed the stimulus plan relentlessly, and then decided to put his state’s money where his mouth was by turning down nearly $100 million of stimulus funds. Pretty dramatic stuff, until it was reported that Jindal was willing to accept the other 98% of Louisiana’s $3.8 billion in stimulus money. If Jindal’s point was that the “infamous” stimulus package was only 98% critical, well then by God, he sure made that point crystal clear. Doh!

That’s today’s GOP – always seeming to be on the wrong end of the sound bite. Always seeming to be governed by politics first, rather than the best interests of the nation. It might be good comedy to those of us who grimaced through Gore v. Bush, but we need more than comedy. As Obama himself recognizes, at a time of national crisis, we need all hands on deck.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


On the first day of this month, nearly 25 Jews and 25 Muslims got together in a home in Silver Spring, Maryland. We came from different synagogues and mosques in the Washington, D.C. area, and as far as I know, few if any of us were trained in “interfaith” dialogue. But we embarked on one nonetheless. In fact, a few hours later, when all the talking had stopped, we vowed not only to continue, but expand the dialogue in future months. We resolved to meet at least once a month going forward – largely in small groups – to discuss the issues of fundamental significance to both communities.

What was so different about our approach? In a word, we’ve pledged from the very start to keep it REAL. Typically, “interfaith” means “pablum” – at least for the first several sessions. People are trained in these matters to begin the dialogue with comments about how the participating faiths are in essence saying the same things … and that once we get past the superficial differences, we’ll all realize how similar in spirit we truly are. In our first meeting, we shot that B.S. full of holes. The Muslims in the house were largely shocked at how many of the Jews appeared to be atheists -- weren’t we all supposed to believe in God? And as for my fellow Jews, many were taken aback by the “fundamentalism” of the Muslims, who repeatedly referenced their view that the Qur’an represents the actual words of Allah.

One after another, Jew and Muslim alike silently channeled Dorothy: “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Somehow, though, the sense in the room was that we were onto something good. Something special. Never before had I better appreciated Nietzsche’s famous dictum that “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” That sentiment was surely voiced in the first person plural by most of my fellow attendees.

When the session was over, I needed aspirin. And yet I also felt a strong sense of hope. The beauty of that gathering was that, in a sense, everyone in the house wanted the same things: peace, love and understanding. Elvis Costello once asked what’s so funny about those three concepts. Well now I know. In order to attain peace, love and understanding, we all have to come to grips with just how profoundly different some groups of people are from others – and the differences are so mind-blowing that it can get comical. There we were, supposedly representing Abrahamic, monotheistic faiths, and yet the Jews and Muslims were practically tearing their hair out about our contrasting approaches to God. When, in a couple of months, we begin talking about our respective cultures, the disparities between us might be even more pronounced. And I needn’t bother to point out the divergent approaches we’re likely to have when the subject turns to Middle Eastern politics, as you know it must.

So what’s the upshot? Should we quit right now? Not on your life. I sense a powerful will to work together and find whatever common ground there is to find. And as the cliché goes, when there’s a will, there’s a way.

So ... from the bottom of my heart, let me ask you this question. If you are a Jew or a Muslim and live in the Washington, D.C. area … or if you know someone who does … please e-mail me at I will supply all the details of our next meeting (which will be Sunday, March 8th at 1:30 p.m. in Potomac, Maryland) and subsequent meetings as well.

Don’t be shy – drop me a line. And when you show up, bring your voice box. As long as you come in the spirit of love, and with a sincere desire to better understand your “cousins” and work together for peace, you are more than welcome to join us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


At a time when the economy is teetering on the brink, we all need our escapes -- our “bread and circuses.” Here in America, looking at the last century as a whole, nothing has filled that role better than Major League Baseball.

I remember watching baseball practically from the time I was born. My dad used to take me to what is now called the R.F.K. Stadium to watch the Senators play – but this was back when RFK was still alive, so it was simply called the D.C. Stadium. I remember my dad going down to dugouts and talking to ballplayers, including future Hall of Famer and Detroit Tiger great, Al Kaline. I also remember him driving hours out of the way to show me the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and taking me to ball games in as many stadiums as possible, including the beautiful Chavez Ravine in L.A. My most memorable trip was back in 1969 when my parents and I woke up one morning in South Dakota and then drove all day to Bloomington, Minnesota in order to catch a twi-night double header. In one of those games, the Twins’ Rod Carew tied the Major League record by stealing home for the seventh time in one season. That record was never broken, but at least Carew’s exploits were able to help build my lifelong love for the Minnesota Twins. Decades later, I traveled to Orlando to see them in Spring Training (this was in 1987, the first year they won the World Series) and then, nine years later, I named my dog after the Twins’ legendary center fielder, Kirby Puckett.

Now that my father is no longer with us, it is particularly difficult for me to think of baseball without thinking of him. He loved to watch me play little league ball, even after my athleticism slowed up and I went from short, to second … to washed up. He enjoyed regaling me with tales of his beloved Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, where he used to sneak in through a hole in a fence and watch “’Da Bums” play for free. My dad was a very gentle and sweet-hearted guy, but being an old Dodger fan, he could always appreciate the right of working class fans to pay their money and heckle the big leaguers. He used to enjoy the heckling almost as much as the baseball.

I literally couldn’t hold back my tears when I took my dad back to Brooklyn a few years before he died in 2002 at the age of 90. We were driving to his alma mater, Brooklyn College, when we passed the grounds of what used to be Ebbets Field. In its place was a big, ugly apartment complex. Gazing at that monstrosity, and reflecting on the death of the Brooklyn Dodgers (no self-respecting Brooklynite rooted for that franchise once it abandoned the East Coast), I was overwhelmed by my father’s own mortality. But those tears turned to laughter when, a little while later, I took my dad to a screening of The Hank Greenberg Story. Hank, who hit 58 home runs for the Detroit Tigers in 1938, was by far the greatest Jewish slugger of all time. Given my dad’s Jewish-consciousness and his lifelong love for baseball, I figured Greenberg must have been a real hero to him back in the day.

“You must have loved Hank Greenberg,” I said, matter-of-factly, as we left the theatre.

“Not really,” dad replied, leaving the theatre. “He didn’t play for my team.”

All I could do was chuckle and nod my head. Spoken like a real fan.

In light of the above, you can probably tell that writing the title of this blogpost is not something I would do lightly. I had been looking forward to this season from the moment that my Twins were defeated 1-0 by the White Sox after they tied atop the American League Central last year (a game I watched alone at a bar). Still, at some point, even a die-hard fan has to take a stand against the mismanagement of a sports league. For lovers of baseball, that time is long overdue.

Here we are, mired in a grievous recession, and Major League Baseball is till partying like its 1999. The ever-wealthy Yankees think nothing of identifying the best free agent on the market each year and offering up a contract north of $20 million annually. Meanwhile, the poor franchises are permitted to spend virtually nothing on their entire squad and thereby pocket incredible profits; apparently, there have always been suckers who go to games in Kansas City even though the franchise could give a rats ass about winning.

The sad truth is that the Barons of the Game simply don’t care about the competitiveness of their league. At a time when basketball and football have imposed a salary cap, baseball has nothing of the sort. The sport’s “luxury tax” is a joke – it amounts to nothing more than the Yankees paying $20 or $30 million back to the rest of the league every season, so that these other teams can descend on the money like vultures. But the Yankees continue to reap stratospheric revenues, and the vultures reap stratospheric income (given their low-costs), so it’s a win-win situation for everyone – everyone, that is, except for the fans of teams in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Washington, Minnesota, San Diego … You get the idea.

You’d think from what I’ve said that baseball would be struggling – that the natives would be restless. Well, baseball’s owners anticipated the problems that would ensue from a lack of a salary cap/salary floor, and they found the perfect solution: record-breaking superstars! Who can forget the great Sosa v. McGuire duel of 1998. Or Barry Bonds’ Homeric hoists into San Francisco Bay. Each of them had their own adorable little gesture after they hit their majestic shots, or rounded the bases. When all was said and done, Bonds had shattered the single-season record that McGuire had set just a few years before, and the most coveted individual record in all of sports: the all-time (career) homerun crown. Both of those records had stood for decades.

Unfortunately for the game, the fans wouldn’t celebrate Bonds the way they celebrated Sosa, McGuire, or this generation’s best pitcher – Roger “the Rocket” Clemons. With Bonds, fans could no longer suspend their disbelief. It had become clear that this super-star was super-juiced. With the others, we all had our suspicions … but those suspicions were unconfirmed, and we were hungry for heroes.

Gradually, though, all the truth is coming out. It’s now common knowledge not only that ALL of this generation’s most hyped players (including each of the above names) were taking performance-enhancing drugs, but that the baseball owners have known about the general extent of this problem and simply didn’t want to stop the goose that lays the golden eggs. Juiced up fireballers and sluggers were supplying the fans with the same kind of pick-me-up that the anti-Semitic pogroms provided the czars; they kept the fans/peasants happy, so that they could ignore the economic realities of the situation. One of those realities, in the case of baseball, is that zombied baseball commissioner Bud Selig has been “earning” a salary of more than $18 million a year. Can you imagine? We fans are footing that bloated bill for a guy who has done nothing more than let the foxes run loose in the hen house.

For me, the last straw was the report that while 104 players have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, those test results will be kept confidential. Cheaters-rights must be some sort of time-honored concept in Bud-ball. Fortunately, though, someone leaked the names of one of the 104 players: Alex Rodriguez. That’s right, the heir apparent to Barry Bonds’ record is no longer A Rod, he’s now A-Fraud. It was cute to see him admit to his drug use only after his name was leaked – and two years after he categorically denied ever taking performance enhancing drugs during a 60 Minutes interview. The funniest part of the recent “admission” was that rather than identifying the performance enhancing drug he’d been taking, he claimed that he couldn’t remember exactly what drug that was. “To be quite honest,” A-Fraud said, “I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using."

It’s mystifying, but I’d bet you some fans actually believe that last statement. Keep in mind that at the time he tested positive for ‘roids, A-Fraud had just signed a contract worth approximately one quarter of a billion dollars. That’s a lot of money – even to Bud Selig. Something tells me, A Fraud knew – and still does know – the juice he was swallowing or shooting into his veins.

I have heard public rumors that officials with the baseball union tipped off players as to when they would be drug tested so that they could continue to take steroids with impunity. Such tip-offs would be despicable, to be sure, but I will continue to give the union the benefit of the doubt until the story is confirmed. Nevertheless, I most certainly have had it with the players, the union, and the owners. In the name of all the baseball fans in cities where the fans are being cheated out of a competitive club because the owners won’t require a hard salary cap and floor … in the name of people like my dad who truly cared about the baseball records that had once stood the test of time … and in honor of the principle that spectator sports ultimately belong to the fans who are footing the bills, it’s high time to take a stand. Let’s send a message to the corrupt players and the greedy owners. Let’s send a message in the only place they care about: their wallets. Let’s show them that if they won’t police the sport, we will. Let’s boycott the sport beginning NOW.

How long should the boycott last? Between now and the end of the World Series? Merely through the regular season? Or should we end it after the All-Star break? On that point, I am undecided. I’m a junky too, remember. But at a minimum, until the mid-summer classic, and probably even longer, I can promise you that I will neither watch nor listen to games -- not at the stadiums, not on TV, and not on the radio. I won’t buy MLB memorabilia either. I urge you to do the same.

And ladies – if you’re not baseball fans, you can play a role too. When you catch your hubbies watching baseball, treat it like pornography. Deny them sex for two weeks. That will let them know that while you might not know much about 4-6-3 double plays or hits-plus-walks ratios, you know what it means to cheat people out of money. Baseball fans have been cheated for too long. Working together, we might be able to clean this crap up, or at least stop serving as enablers.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Let’s talk about the hot topic in Washington, D.C., and I don’t mean the stimulus package. Let’s talk about what has happened to King Barack and his Heavenly Court. Now mind you, my problem is not so much with Barack himself, who I still regard as a remarkably talented politician with a very bright future. I simply fault those who treat him like the Second Coming. They’re threatening to turn Barack’s Presidency into something nearly as comical as Cheney’s.

Consider just for a moment the reaction among certain segments of the liberal blogosphere after Tom Daschle resigned as nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Barack publicly apologized for the snafu. One after another, bloggers fell all over Barack as if he had just turned lemons into lemonade; it’s not as miraculous as turning water into wine, but not a lot of Presidents can pull it off.

This is from Bonnie Erbe’s Thomas Jefferson Street blog:

“Wow! How long has it been since we've seen a president admit he was wrong? Dubya never came close. If his neck were on a boulder and a muscled executioner wielded a cutlass above his head, Dubya would never admit he was wrong. Everyone else was wrong, but not he. Richard Nixon saw enemies in every corner, but he could not admit wrong. Even Bill Clinton never apologized to the country for lying about his encounters with Monica Lewinsky.”

Erbe went on to toast Barack’s “strong sense of self” and his “refreshing bit of candor.” In fact, over the past couple of days, “refreshing” was probably the word liberal bloggers most often used in describing Barack’s handling of the Daschle controversy. What follows are the televised comments of Arianna Huffington, the uber-blogger who never hesitated to rip Bush a new one every time he or his minions made a mistake. Talk about spin.

“It was very refreshing. It was a teachable moment. And actually, Barack Obama has offered us multiple teachable moments. You know, not holding a grudge with his appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, bringing the first granny into the White House, teaching how he can bring grandparents into the bringing up of our children, staying unflappable while being criticized as a socialist, the terrorist during the campaign and now this one—admitting a mistake. How refreshing. As the mother of two teenage daughters, I really welcome that moment.”

Listening to my fellow progressives, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that the whole Daschle episode was proof positive about how lucky we all are that The Chosen One is among us, continuing to stretch the possibilities of statecraft to its angelic limits. But I do know better, because unlike so many of these other bloggers, I am neither new to progressivism, nor to the city of Washington. And here, in progressive Washington, the whole Daschle situation has produced a collective sigh of “Oh shit. This again.”

To illustrate what I’m talking about, I’d like to offer the kind of apology that Barack Obama could have given, but didn’t. It’s offered in the style of Howard “Tell it like it is” Cosell. Or, as we like to say in the world of law -- it attempts to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

So without any further adieu, I give you an imaginary address to the nation by our recently-minted President, Barack Obama.

“My fellow Americans. I come to you today appreciably wiser than I did when you elected me. Just last month, I received a royal tribute that should have humbled me beyond description. Instead, it has left me a tad drunk on my own power – drunk enough to think that the ends justify the means. For that, I am deeply sorry.

“Statesmen should be judged primarily by the extent to which they stay true to their campaign promises. That is what made Ronald Reagan such a great President – you and I may not agree with what he stood for, but at least he did what he said he’d do. As for my campaign, you’ll recall that I promised fundamental change. I promised an administration that isn’t beholden to lobbyists, and that is deeply devoted to the rule of law and the respect for all citizens, not merely the overfed big shots that have been running both Washington and Wall Street into the ground.

“Well here we are – three weeks into my Administration, and look at what’s happened. I’ve created a national joke. ‘‘Why don’t progressives worry about raising taxes? Because they don’t bother to pay their own.’ The joke wouldn’t be so funny if only one or two of my nominees had tax issues. But it has gotten to the point where everywhere you turn, you read that another nominee hasn’t paid their taxes. Or if they don’t have a tax issue, then it’s their spouse. Hard working, law abiding Americans have got to be wondering whether they’re too honest and patriotic to fit into my Administration.

“Just look at my Secretary of Treasury. He’s the guy who’s responsible for overseeing the Internal Revenue Service. And even he has a five-figured tax problem. I understand that judges are already making snide comments to Government lawyers when they try to enforce the tax laws – pointing out that their own leaders don’t pay their taxes, so why do they expect other people to pay up? This isn’t exactly the kind of change I campaigned for.

“Of course, it took a real doozy, a truly blatant case, before the public would finally stand up to me on these issues. And frankly, I’m glad you did. I deserved it.

“For those of you Rip Van Winkles out there who haven’t heard of Tom Daschle, here’s what you missed. When Mr. Daschle was campaigning for the Senate in 1986, he made a political ad that praised himself as the epitome of frugality. It was focused on how he had driven his old Pontiac to work every day for the past 15 years, even as a member of the House of Representatives. He held himself out as a model of the kind of humble, down-to-earth politician we all wish to elect, but so rarely find. But that was 1986. Now, it’s turned out that he has been a high-paid consultant to a company that has given him daily access to a limousine and chauffeur, that he had failed to pay some of this income on his taxes, and that in total, he owed more than $140,000 to the IRS. Worse yet, as far back in June of this past year, he told the Senate Finance Committee that "something made him think that the car service might be taxable" -- so this huge amount of unpaid taxes was no secret to him when he applied for a high position in my Administration.

“I want you to think about what we’re talking about. $140,000 owed to the IRS. Just how much income do you think must have generated a tax liability that large? Keep in mind, this was relatively recent income – it didn’t date back to the 80s, right? That’s when he was driving his old Pontiac. So Mr. Daschle didn’t bother to pay taxes on hundreds of thousands of dollars of income. Hundreds of thousands! And still, when my people vetted him, they allowed him to stand for nomination.

“If that’s not enough, here’s the piece de resistance – when all this was revealed to the public, and I was asked if I stood behind Mr. Daschle, I said “Absolutely!” And my press secretary, Robert Gibbs, elaborated on that sentiment: "It was a serious mistake, one that he caught and remedied. We still think he's the best person to do health care reform and shepherd a very complicated process through Congress to achieve savings and cut costs for the American people."

“That was my attitude, too. The ends justified the means. Mr. Daschle is smart and well connected, so he’s the man for the job. Absolutely! I thought about the situation, and decided that failing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes doesn't disqualify someone from overseeing our health care system. Just like I absolutely didn’t think that failing to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes disqualifies someone from overseeing the IRS. And these are just two of several examples of my top nominees who have shown blatant lapses of judgment, if not ethics. In each case, we’re talking about liberals who are really rich and apparently want to make damned sure they stay that way.

“What does that say about me and my lieutenants that these scandals are now the face of my Administration?

“I’ve been wondering about how I let this happen. Perhaps the problem is that I’m still relatively new to this town – after all, when you exclude the time I’ve spent on the campaign trail, I’ve really only spent a couple of years here. Maybe I just don’t know enough people well enough to separate the true public servants from the fat-cat opportunists. Or maybe I’ve just gotten so used to Illinois politics that practically anything seems acceptable to me now.

“Anyway, you might not want to believe me – and I can’t blame you if you don’t – but I sincerely have learned from my mistakes of the past few weeks. I understand that “change” isn’t just a slogan. I understand that for change to come to Washington, we must first start with ethics.

“I want this to be the cleanest Administration in recent record. I want to be known, once again, as ‘No Drama Obama.’ So today, as I stand humbled by broken campaign promises, I assure you that I have taken this lesson to heart. The next time someone in my Administration pushes the envelope with ethics, that person is out. I don’t care how smart they are, or knowledgeable, or efficient at their jobs. If they’re not ethical, they won’t work for me.

“That is a promise.”

And that, my friends, is an apology worthy of the word CHANGE.