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Where does he find these guys?

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By John Barnhart

    Last year, Barack Obama promised the most competent, ethical administration ever. While I admit that it’s still early, the Obama administration is falling short of this lofty promise.

    President Obama quickly got off to a bad start with his No Tax Cheat Left Behind policy for cabinet picks. Timothy Geithner, the treasury secretary who didn’t understand his own tax liabilities, got through the confirmation process. Then it was revealed that Ron Kirk, President Obama’s choice for our trade representative owes an estimated $10,000 in back taxes. Like Geithner, Kirk survived the confirmation process. Two others, Tom Daschle, who failed to pay $128,000 in taxes and Nancy Killefer, who also had tax troubles withdrew their nominations as opposition in the Senate grew. 

    Geithner is now facing heat for not doing more to derail huge bonuses for American International Group (AIG) executives. But, maybe he just made an honest mistake.

    Even worse than nominating tax cheats to administration posts was President Obama’s appointment of Charles Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. After an uproar of opposition, Freeman withdrew his name from consideration a couple of weeks ago. He blamed the “Israel lobby.” It kind of reminded me of a statement Adolf Hitler made in the early autumn of 1942. Hitler blamed the war on a conspiracy of Jews to destroy the “Aryan people.”

    One element of the uproar was a speech Freeman gave on Oct. 11, 2006, at an international forum on China. Some quotes from that speech, that circulated widely, make it sound as if he is praising Mao Zedong, the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century. Read in its entirety, the speech doesn’t sound quite like that. It’s more a rambling, scholarly talk that, while not roundly condemning Mao, doesn’t praise him either. Freeman compares Mao to Qin Shihuang, who unified China and became its first emperor. He states that Qin created the vessel into which the Han Dynasty later poured something positive.

    Another element of the uproar, the one that is truly disturbing, is that Freeman stated in a 2006 Internet dialog among China experts that the Tian’anmen Square massacre — when Chinese troops gunned down hundreds of peaceful pro-democracy protesters in 1989 — was justified. In his opinion, the only thing China’s government did wrong was “the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud.”

    So, the man that President Obama selected for a major intelligence post believes that the way to deal with a peaceful protest is to nip it in the bud. That failed, gunning the protesters down is OK.

    Did President Obama not know about this? Was he unaware of Freeman’s financial ties to the Chinese and Saudi governments? Or did President Obama know about all of this and think that none of this was a problem, as he apparently felt about the fact that four of his nominees to administration posts failed to pay their taxes?

    If President Obama didn’t know about Freeman’s opinions and business ties, then this is one more reason to begin questioning his administration’s competence. It adds one more clown act to the circus that the selection process for senior administration officials has already become.

    If President Obama was fully aware of Freeman’s opinion about Tian’anmen Square, then one has to wonder why he wasn’t disturbed by it. Does President Obama support the First Amendment guarantee of the right of peaceful protest? Or, does he, like Freeman, believe that a peaceful demonstration in the nation’s capital, to protest some government policy, needs to be nipped in the bud?

    We may find out as TEA (Taxed Enough Already) party protests grow and more and more people get steamed up over President Obama’s agenda and policies.