Mona Charen

In his inaugural address, President Obama promised to initiate a "new era of responsibility." These heights were to be scaled following a successful campaign to transcend the "old politics" of Washington, D.C. Two weeks is a short period of time on which to judge an era, so let's just say it hasn't gotten off to a roaring start.

The hallmark of this new era is apparently the cap on executive compensation for banks taking bailout money from Uncle Sam. This makes Democrats giddy, as they despise high salaries for executives, except when those executives are Democratic former members of Congress, former Democratic presidents, and trial lawyers. Some of us find the whole notion of government caps on income obnoxious, but will shed no tears for executives who will have to make do with $500,000. If they had run their companies more competently, they wouldn't be dancing to Uncle Sam's tune. (Here is an under-reported story: the failure of boards of directors to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders by curbing unwarranted executive compensation. Where were the corporate raiders when we needed them?)

If responsibility means anything, it means being accountable for one's behavior. Tom Daschle, Nancy Killefer, Bill Richardson, and Timothy Geithner -- that's a pretty significant percentage of appointees to show up with ethical clouds. Richardson, the abortive Secretary of Commerce, apparently was caught up in a Blagojevich style "pay to play" scheme in his home state of New Mexico. Exit Richardson. Nancy Killefer, tapped by Obama as the administration's "performance czar," reportedly failed to pay unemployment taxes for her household help and had a tax lien imposed on her home by the District of Columbia. Tom Daschle failed, among other things, to pay taxes on a limousine and driver provided by a "good friend." He didn't know, the former majority leader of the U.S. senate explained, that the IRS considered the limo income. Until the evening before Daschle's withdrawal, President Responsibility had stood behind him. Asked at a Monday night meeting if he still supported Daschle, Obama said "Absolutely." But the next day, the president acknowledged that he had "screwed up," and that there cannot be two different standards, "one for prominent people" and another "for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes."

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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