It is not necessary to have an opinion about where President Obama was born to know that his lack of candor has cost him public trust. Obama’s approval ratings are in the mid-40s, while his disapproval ratings hover at the 50 percent mark. The president's release of his birth certificate feels forced. Obama should have released his birth certificate as a candidate.
In this hyper-media driven world, the public expects to know everything about their elected officials, and they often do. And when they do not, they become curious and then they become suspicious. And once those suspicions set-in, critics and others feel free to fill-in the gaps. This is what happened to Obama.
After Watergate, the lesson that America learned was that it is the cover-up that gets you.
In this Facebook/WikiLeaks world nothing stays secret for very long world. The GOP may not be able to force Obama to disclose White House logs, or college transcripts. But the 2012 candidates can lead by example, and let the public know who is being straight with them.
Memo to prospective Republican 2012 presidential candidates: make a complete disclosure now. Release your complete birth records, all your transcripts, 10 years’ worth of tax returns, and any and all arrest records. Do it now, not later. Let the American voter know who you really are.
Tell America where you were born, whether you have an arrest record, how much money you make, how much taxes you pay, how much and to whom do you donate to charity, what is your financial worth, what do you in in property and investments, how financially indebted are you and who are your clients, where did you go to school, what courses did you take and what were your grades. The public has a right to know. During the campaign release the names and amounts of campaign contributions in real time.
Can disclosure be embarrassing? We know the answer to that question. But we also know that refusal to come clean is worse.
During the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush failed to disclose his 1976 arrest for driving under the influence, until Fox New’s Carl Cameron broke the story. Bush’s inability to admit the truth until he was caught likely cost him the popular vote and nearly cost him the November election.
These days, President Obama continues to stonewall about releasing his college and law school transcripts, despite continued public demand. A look at Obama’s poll number tells the story of how not coming clean can damage the man, the office and the public trust.
In the case of Obama, his claims of privacy sounds hollow given the fact that wrote an autobiography called "Dreams of My Father."
The Gospel says, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” If Obama could sit through Reverend Wright’s sermons all those years, the least he can now do is take a hint from John 8:32 and come clean with a release of his personal records and transcripts. If you are going to “share” in a book, be prepared to tell all when you run for president.
As for financial records, a ten-year release of tax returns lets the public know whether the candidate obeys the tax laws, whether he or she has problems making ends meet, whether the candidate is personally generous and what the candidate’s priorities are.
A rabbi once observed that a person’s spirituality can be measured by how he or she tends to the material needs of others. Does America want another president whose favorite charity was Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ?
Also, does America want a president who does not obey or know the tax laws? Timothy Geithner, Obama’s Treasury Secretary, failed to pay $34,000 in taxes.
Tom Daschle, Obama’s first HHS Secretary Designee and former Democratic Senate Majority Leader, had his nomination pulled because he failed to pay over $83,000 in taxes and improperly took nearly $15,000 in tax deductions.
The Senate gets to review presidential nominations. But, it is the American people who are asked to pass judgment upon a presidential wannabe, and the public can only do its job properly if the candidate makes an early and complete disclosure.
Financial disclosure will also enable the public to know whether a candidate made his or her money by investing his or her money overseas, as opposed to helping create jobs at home, or whether a prospective president was on a foreign payroll shilling for a company controlled by Hugo Chavez.
In 1988 Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen had a weak spot for investing in the Fidelity Overseas fund.
During his 2008 presidential run former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s client list emerged as a campaign issue.
Former House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charlie Rangel’s “omissions” on his disclosure forms are the stuff of legend, laughs and lore. Oh, and they cost Rangel his committee chairmanship.
Presidents, senators, congressmen and high level federal appointees and employees are required to disclose their assets annually. The same kind of disclosure should be made by prospective nominees. Neither the public nor the press should be made to grovel for this vital information.
If a candidate is unwilling to make comprehensive disclosure about personal history, finances and education, that candidate should not be running for president. But, if they can stand the heat and make complete disclosure, the candidate and the country will be the better for it. These days the truth comes out, and how it comes out can either make you or break you.
Lloyd Green was an appointee in the Department of Justice during President George H.W.Bush's administration. He was one of the "excellent nerds" of the 1988 Bush Campaign's Research Department.