Obama's Blind Spot

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Is Tom Daschle "change we can believe in"?

Barack Obama ran a great campaign, oversaw a pretty smooth transition--and has now, early on in his presidency -- hit a rough squall.

[caption id="attachment_6726" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and President Obama (AP file photo)"][/caption]

The immediate issue seems to be the presidential-appointment vetting process: Who, in the White House offices of personnel and legal counsel, is keeping track of all this paperwork--and more to the point, who is actually reading it, with an eye toward warning signs and downsides?

Exhibit A, of course, is the failed nomination, before the Senate, of Tom Daschle to be "health czar." And Exhibit B is the equally failed nomination of Nancy Killefer, who also withdrew her name on Tuesday. And, reaching further back, let's not forget the bumpily embarrassing confirmation of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Exhibit C. (Geithner, of course, was judged "too big to fail," and so squeaked through the Senate confirmation process.)

And before Geithner there was the dead-end pick of Bill Richardson to be Commerce Secretary--who came in the wake of the fizzled Commerce Secretary boomlet, back in November, for Penny Pritzker, the Chicago heiress with a sub-prime mortgage problem.

On Tuesday afternoon, after the White House unveiled its latest pick for the Commerce job --New Hampshire's Republican Senator Judd Gregg -- White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declared about Obama personnel process, "We've set a standard that's unseen or unmatched by any other administration." Higher than any of Obama's 43 predecessors in the White House? That's a high standard indeed.

All Americans will be part of the judgment process when it comes to the Obama presidency, but from this observer's point of view, it seems as if Obama has a blind spot: If he knows the person, if that person was an early supporter, and if that person is generally "one of us" in terms of class and education, well, then, he or she must be good and fit for any high office.

But in fact, back in the late 18th century, the Founders had an answer for that sort of overconfidence: They called it checks and balances, including the "advise and consent" function of the United States Senate.

Yup, these vital safeguards were put into the Constitution for good reason--and all these centuries later, confirmation by the Senate is still demonstrating its genius.