Sunday’s news about Bill Richardson has me moderately worried. I have no idea if he did anything wrong, but either way I see a pattern of incompetence developing that will be really problematic if it continues. Democrats have been politically incompetent for as long as I’ve been alive (although Obama was thought to have ended this streak with his successful campaign). But while the old pattern is Democrats caving to Republicans, now I’m also seeing examples of Democrats being corrupt and getting outmaneuvered by other Democrats. The former is annoying, but it’s already the subject of most of the important lefty blogs.
But the latter is just pure political malpractice. Here’s three quick examples from the last three weeks. 1: Being close to appointing Caroline Kennedy to a Senate seat against the will of the people, purely because of her family connections. 2: Letting this Blagojevich situation fester. (Nate Silver put it best: “The Senate Democrats may have let this situation get away from them when they got greedy and pulled back from the promise of a special election [to replace Blagojevich].”) 3: And now inviting more corruption questions because of this Richardson investigation. Each of these messes can be traced to Democratic overreach – cutting corners on ethics to eke out marginal political advantage (to wit: easier fundrasing if a Kennedy runs in the 2010 New York senate race, preventing a Republican from possibly winning the Illinois senate seat if there were a special election, and winning diversity points by appointing a Hispanic-American to the Cabinet).
Democrats need to stop this now. There’s a lot of change they need to deliver in a very short amount of time, and making these sorts of mistakes is going to hamstring them before they can even start legislating. The responsibility to stop this behavior lies with Obama, but so far he hasn’t done a great job of curbing these excesses. And, as far as I can tell, the Rezko thing is actually an example of Obama making the sort of overreach I was just talking about. So my concern is that, while he’s great in most other respects, Obama might have a bit of blind spot to petty corruption (and I have to admit, it doesn’t cause anything close to the damage from Bush’s style of corruption). If so, we might be seeing a lot more investigations and media witch-hunts, and a lot less change next year.