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Obama’s new era of responsibility

Christie Pesavento | Monday, February 2, 2009

During Barack Obama’s lackluster inaugural address, he called upon all Americans to usher in “a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

His subsequent actions as president, however, do not ring true to these words.

Take, for instance, his decision to shut down the prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay within the next year. While liberals in America and radical Muslims throughout the world cheered, the question of what should be done with the detainees remains woefully unanswered.

“They’re either going to be moved and tried in American courts, tried in military courts, or they’re going to be sent back to their own countries,” Vice President Joe Biden said.

Moving the detainees from one prison to another does nothing more than needlessly endanger Americans by bringing them within our nation’s borders. It does not address the criticisms regarding the status of those prisoners who have yet to be charged with a crime, nor does it make explicit how long they will be held until they are tried. Releasing them in the US is out of the question, and the 60 detainees that the Pentagon has already cleared have not been accepted back into their home countries, or any other nations for that matter. Who can blame them, since one man released in 2005 later killed 13 Iraqi soldiers in a suicide bombing and another who was deported to Saudi Arabia has become the deputy leader of a branch of al-Qaeda bordering Yemen.

One of the primary roles of government is to provide security for its citizens. In his zeal for protecting the “rights” of those who would kill themselves to harm innocent American men, women, and children, Obama has apparently neglected this vital responsibility.

Another area in which Obama conveniently forgets his own call for a new era involves his cabinet nominees. First there was the case of Timothy Geithner, now Obama’s Treasury Secretary, who failed to pay over $34,000 in federal taxes over several years until an audit by the IRS in 2006. Then last November Obama’s vetting team found more unpaid taxes from 2001 and 2002, and again Geithner was forced to repay them.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick for secretary of health and human services, has also run into trouble regarding tax payments. Reports have surfaced showing that he failed to pay over $128,000 in taxes by neglecting to declare the use of a car and driver lent to Daschle by wealthy Democratic fundraiser Leo Hindery. Nor did he bother to report the $83,000 in consulting income he earned in 2007. He did, however, claim nearly $15,000 in charitable donations to organizations that do not qualify for deductions. Even more alarming is the fact that Daschle knew that he needed to correct his tax returns since June, but didn’t bother to fix the matter until January, nearly a month after his nomination.

Now I understand why Democrats are always so eager to push for tax increases – they themselves don’t actually pay for them! If Obama wants ordinary Americans to take up the responsibility creed, he ought to hold his nominees to the same – if not higher – standards.

But the award for greatest lack of responsibility goes to Obama himself, for failing to uphold his campaign promise to govern in a bipartisan manner. From his very first day in office, Barack Obama began reaching out to Republicans by prohibiting the use of advanced interrogation techniques against captured terrorists, reversing the Bush administration’s prohibition of funding organizations that promote and provide abortions overseas, passing the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and signing a series of pro-union executive orders. Most recently, he helped push the $825 billion economic stimulus package through the House without a single Republican vote.

Even John McCain, the eternal maverick, is voicing opposition to the bill while criticizing Obama and his party for their failure to include Republican input in the drafting process. “The Republicans have not been brought in to the degree that we should be into these negotiations and discussions,” he said last week, adding that no Republican proposal was incorporated into the legislation.

When Republican Congressman Eric Cantor voiced concerns over Obama’s tax policy during a private meeting with Congressional Republicans and Democrats, the President ended the debate with a single phrase: “I won.” After all the complaints about Bush’s “my way or the highway” approach to governing, the Democrats appear to have embraced it wholeheartedly. At least Bush was bold enough to admit it.

So much for the era of responsibility.

Christie Pesavento is a junior and can be reached at cpesaven@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necesarily those of The Observer.