President Obama has nominated Jack Lew, his Chief of Staff, to succeed Tim Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. Obama has made so many bad nominations that it is hard to keep track of them all, but Lew stands out in a bad crop. The Senate should reject his nomination.
Today the Senate Finance Committee held its first, and probably only, day of hearings on Lew’s nomination. News accounts suggest that much of the questioning was misguided. Senators should oppose Lew not because he invested in a fund headquartered in the Cayman Islands; or because he got rich quickly by heading a Citigroup hedge fund that bet against the housing market; or even because he is a far-left political hack who is utterly unqualified for the position. (“Get me a phone book,” Larry Kudlow famously commented, “and I’ll find someone more qualified than Jack Lew.”) No: the Senate should reject Lew as Secretary of the Treasury because he is a brazen liar.
The federal debt is the great issue of our time, and our nation desperately needs officials who will deal honestly with this existential threat. Yet Lew, both as Obama’s Chief of Staff and in a prior role in charge of the Office of Management and Budget, has shown himself to be utterly dishonest. Yesterday Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, took the extraordinary step of writing a letter to all of his Senate colleagues, urging them to vote down Lew’s nomination. He was unsparing in his recitation of Lew’s transgressions:
Sessions didn’t mention another important series of Lew lies. The biggest scandal of the Obama presidency is the fact that the Democrats have illegally refused to adopt a budget for more than four years. Lew went on national television as President Obama’s spokesman, and on multiple occasions asserted that the reason the Senate had not adopted a budget was that Republicans had filibustered it. This was a lie; under Senate rules, budget resolutions are not subject to the filibuster. The Democrats simply didn’t want to pass a budget for political reasons. There can be no question that Lew, at that time a former director of OMB, knew that his story was an outright falsehood. He simply attempted to deceive the American people, on behalf of Barack Obama, for political gain.
I have said that a president should be granted wide latitude in selecting officials to staff his administration. Mere ideological disagreement, without more, is not a ground, in my opinion, for denying confirmation of a cabinet officer. But a minimum standard of integrity must be applied, and Jack Lew fails to get over even the lowest possible threshold of honesty. He should not be confirmed.