Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tell Them Everything

I got some advice for you, son. Don't write down anything. Ever.
If you haven't noticed yet, I'm back. And I'm going to roll with the political stuff for awhile. Forgive me, but it's the first time in forever that I'm jazzed about Washington again.

I promise to drop a sports post in the mix soon. After all, my Giants have been way hot since this here blog predicted their shocking Super Bowl victory last January (yep, that's me giving me props). I knew they'd be good this season and I knew the Cowboys were overrated (I am so over Tony Romo) but I didn't expect them to be the best team in the NFC after Week 10. Anyway, I'll get back to that stuff soon -- I'm waiting for the NBA season to get interesting.

So, The New York Times has a little story posted on the front page of its website tonight that I think is going to turn into a big deal on the news shows this week -- and not in a good way, either. Basically, the gist of the story is that if you're interested in a high-level position in the Obama Administration, you'd better be prepared to dig deep into your past.

The Obama Transition Team has sent out a seven-page questionnaire which the Times has put up on its website, calling it perhaps the "most extensive — some say invasive — application ever."

The questions range from the simple to the ridiculously complex, a document only a lawyer could love -- and considering a lot of Washington insiders are lawyers anyway, I guess that works. But the questions themselves ask for an amazing amount of detail and background information on job applicants, their spouses and even their relatives.

Here are two examples:
  • 13) Electronic communications: If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe.
  • 17) Please list each membership, including any board memberships, you or your spouse have or have had with any political, civic, social, charitable, educational, professional, fraternal, benevolent or religious organization, private club or other membership organization (including any type of tax-exempt organization) during the past ten years. Please include dates of membership and any positions you mayhave had with the organization.
There's questions asking if you or any family member has a connection or affiliation with any of the recent failed financial institutions. That would count me out as my ex-husband worked for Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae for years (I can't remember which one). But then again, I'm sure I'd fail on the embarrassing email front too.

I understand what they're trying to do -- at least I think I do -- but it seems to me that there has to be a better way to ensure a conflict-of-interest-free administration, then a ridiculously over-the-top invasion of privacy. Seriously, if these guys are that paranoid, I'm worried for them.

White the Times story notes that small stuff like traffic tickets with fines less than $50 don't have to be reported, the breadth of the requests have sent "job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics ... to document both their achievements and missteps."

You even have to give them all your aliases, including any screenname you might have used online. I guess moFOpimp$$69 would raise a red flag. Apparently even though the vetting processes has been getting more arduous with each new administration, Obama's goes even above and beyond any previous questionnaires. Technology plays a large role -- the article points out, "there was no Facebook the last time a new president came to town."

Critics of the questionnaire say the inclusion of family members' histories, including grown children, is too invasive. I tend to agree. I have a feeling that in trying to avoid future embarrassment, the Obama team might have walked into it with this questionnaire. I suspect it's going to get talked about a lot over the next few days.

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