Inhaling numerous apologiesOK, I’ll confess. I was holding out, so I could write a passionate and engaging column about the Arizona Cardinals’ Super Bowl win, because
By: Tony Bender, The Dickinson Press
OK, I’ll confess. I was holding out, so I could write a passionate and engaging column about the Arizona Cardinals’ Super Bowl win, because everyone loves an underdog. I don’t have anything against the Pittsburgh Steelers — other than they ruined my column idea for this week. So, I am sitting here staring blankly at my screen, like Michael Phelps after a bong hit.
Maybe you heard. After a photograph of the Olympic swimmer smoking pot hit the newsstands, Phelps did what all celebrities do at a time like this. He issued a vague, but heartfelt, apology: “I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment… it will not happen again.” Translation: “I will never let anyone with a camera in the room when I am getting stoned.”
The best apologies in recent weeks, accompanied with more squirming than a banana slug, have come out of Washington. Timothy Geithner, who was picked by the president to be the new secretary of treasury, because he is supposedly the only person in the world who grasps the intricacies of the credit crisis, was embarrassed by the discovery he and his TurboTax program had failed to pay about $26,000 in payroll taxes for three years. He called the mistakes “careless and avoidable.” Translation: “How did I know I was going to be nominated treasury secretary?”
Now, comes new former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, from South Dakota, the nominee to head Health and Human Services and apparently the only man in America who understands the health care crisis, failed to report a car and driver as income, resulting in a $128,000 tax bill. There has been no apology, except probably to the president for failing to disclose this little issue before allowing himself to be nominated. Daschle, you recall, was kicked out of office by the voters of South Dakota on the grounds he had too big a house in Washington.
I could see giving the president a mulligan on Geithner. After all, even Republicans supported the appointment because, they said, the mistake he made is common. But two in a row is hard to swallow.
If you want to give Daschle the benefit of the doubt, you could make a case that he didn’t know you have to declare access to a company chauffeur and limousine. Heck, I didn’t know that. But I don’t have a car and driver, either. I think the rule should be if you have a job with a car and driver, you should be smart enough to know the rule.
Sure, I understand these guys are crucial to solving the credit crisis and the health care crisis and saving the free world, but it seems to me the real crisis is no one understands the tax code! This leaves us with three options:
1. Adopt the Flat Tax, but only if it is divisible by tens. Fractions would set us back.
2. Improve the nation’s math skills
Did I say three? See, what a sad reflection of math skills in America today.
The good news is the president’s secret plan to nominate virtually every American to some office in order to discover unpaid back taxes through the vetting process, is working splendidly. This is how we will lower the deficit. Wait ‘til he gets to the Republicans. We’ll be out of the woods in a week.
Meanwhile, the new president is spending his political capital at a brisk pace. If he nominates Charles Barkley, the honeymoon is over.
But back to apologies. History shows good apologizers fare well. Nixon couldn’t bring himself to say he was sorry for Watergate, so he was out. Clinton couldn’t tell the truth about Monica Lewinsky, so he was almost out. But Reagan, whose sins topped those of Nixon and Clinton, just smiled and shook his head in that kindly, grandfatherly way, and admitted that, oops, he might have traded arms for hostages. My bad. And had he been in the same room with Michael Phelps, I think he would have fessed up.
Clinton was. But he says he didn’t inhale and I believe him.