So Obama is banning lobbyists from his administration . . . except when he isn't:
The new president also moved to fulfill his campaign pledge to end the so-called revolving door, the longstanding Washington practice whereby White House officials depart for the private sector and cash in on their connections by lobbying former colleagues.
In what ethics-in-government advocates described as a particularly far-reaching move, Mr. Obama barred officials of his administration from lobbying their former colleagues "for as long as I am president." He barred former lobbyists from working for agencies they had lobbied within the past two years and required them to recuse themselves from issues they had handled during that time.
The Republican National Committee criticized the Obama administration for violating this new standard in some of its appointments. Mr. Obama's nominee for deputy secretary of defense, William Lynn, has been a lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon, and his nominee for deputy secretary of health and human services, William V. Corr, lobbied for stricter tobacco regulations as an official with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
A senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, conceded the two nominees did not adhere to the new rules. But he said that Mr. Lynn had the support of Republicans and Democrats, and would receive a waiver under the policy, and that Mr. Corr did not need a waiver because he had agreed to recuse himself from tobacco issues."When you set very tough rules, you need to have a mechanism for the occasional exception," this official said, adding, "We wanted to be really tough, but at the same time we didn't want to hamstring the new administration or turn the town upside down."
Is he also going to end torture, except where it might yield useful information?
In practice, I suspect that this rule will turn out to be very, very difficult to stick to. I am second to none in my hatred of lobbying, but the fact is, lobbyists are usually the folks who a) know their subject matter really, really well and b) want to work for government salaries.
Nor is it any good to simply claim, as Obama is trying, that your appointees will recuse themselves from the issues they lobbied on. If you know what your boss wants, it's wise to give it to him, even if he never asks for it. One assumes that no matter how hard he strives to be fair, Mr. Corr will admire the pluck and good sense of any subordinate who agrees with him on all matter tobacco.
I can't say that I'm particularly perturbed by the prospect of Mr. Corr in office (though to be sure, I neither smoke, nor sell tobacco). It's just time to face up to the fact that we didn't actually enter magical unicorn fairyland on November 5th. And I'm pretty sure that most of the other sweeping campaign promises he made will also turn out to be more complicated than he thought.
For all that, I still prefer him to Mr. McCain; being a libertarian means accepting that your vote is always the choice between the lesser of two evils. That he will not fulfill most of his campaign promises does not mean that he still can't do a good job. But I confess to a deep curiosity about how closely the watchdogs who bashed Bush on principle will actually hold Obama to account for his promises.
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