I am generally of the view that a president has the right to staff his administration with like-minded people of his choice. He won the election, and is entitled, I think, to wide latitude in choosing the cabinet officers and others who he thinks can best advance his agenda. (Judges are different. They serve a co-equal branch of government, not the president’s administration, and they will be around long after the president is gone.) But there are limits: shouldn’t a record of persistent and public dishonesty disqualify a cabinet nominee?
That is the question that Senator Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, raises in this hard-hitting post at National Review Online:
After the historic midterm elections in 2010, when the GOP took control of the House on a wave of public concern over spending and debt, many believed President Obama would seize the moment as an opportunity to reach a long-term debt agreement. Instead, the opposite happened. Democrats savaged House Republicans for passing a budget with needed reforms and savings, at the same time refusing to lay out a credible plan of their own. It was a calculated and craven political strategy.
At the heart of this strategy was Jack Lew. As the president’s budget director he submitted to Congress the most dangerously irresponsible plan we’d ever seen, one panned by virtually every major editorial board in the country. Mr. Lew then launched a nationwide PR campaign designed to mislead the public about the budget that included false statements in congressional testimony. Most infamously, Mr. Lew claimed his plan “would not add to the debt” and defended this statement as “accurate” when testifying before the Budget Committee. But that plan, according to the White House’s own budget tables, would have added $13 trillion overall to the debt and never once had a deficit of less than $600 billion — with the deficits getting larger with time. In just ten years, mandatory spending would increase by more than 80 percent.
But the truth did not concern Mr. Lew. He had a public-relations campaign to execute. Consider just a few of his many egregious falsehoods…
Sessions goes on to cite chapter and verse, and he is right. This is not a matter of interpretation or opinion; Lew lied, repeatedly, in order to deceive the public on matters of vital national importance. Sessions concludes:
Mr. Lew, a man whose duty it was to present a truthful picture of the nation’s financial condition, did the opposite. He presented a false picture. No man serving in the White House has done more to scuttle the hopes of a meaningful long-term debt agreement than Jack Lew. To confirm him to the premier financial post in the country would be an acceptance of such tactics and is why it must not happen.
Lew’s confirmation hearing will take place in the Senate Finance Committee, where the ranking Republican is Orrin Hatch, not in Sessions’s Budget Committee. It should be interesting.