The mainstream media has been repeating–without any criticism, context, or opposing view–Sen. Harry Reid’s claim that Mitt Romney could not be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve in the Cabinet–or even to serve as "dog catcher"–because he has only released his most recent tax returns, not his entire tax history. The story currently leads major news websites, including National Public Radio’s hourly news update. So it seems appropriate to do what the media will not: apply Reid’s "dog catcher" standard to Barack Obama.
Let us first take the question of whether Barack Obama would have been confirmed by the Senate for any position, Cabinet or otherwise. If his lack of experience was not a sufficient obstacle, his past history of serious drug use–which is even worse than the admissions in his memoir, Dreams from My Father–would have barred his nomination. So, too, would his radical past, including his associations with Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Rashid Khalidi, Derrick Bell, and a host of extremists with whom he made common cause.
On the tax issue, it is worth reminding Sen. Reid (and the media) that several of President Obama’s nominees for the Cabinet did, in fact, have very serious tax problems–and were confirmed anyway (though at least one, with a sense of humility lacking in her colleagues, withdrew). The most notorious is "TurboTax" Tim Geithner, who outrageously blamed a computer program for his failure to pay self-employment taxes while he was working for the International Monetary Fund. He was confirmed anyway, under considerable pressure from the mainstream media (and after an inexcusable capitulation by Senate Republicans), which painted Geithner as the only person who could possibly be qualified to run the U.S. Treasury in crisis.
It is also worth noting that Sen. Reid’s best hope for maintaining his job is to see Elizabeth Warren unseat Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts. But Warren’s candidacy is only possible because she could not receive confirmation from the U.S. Senate for the leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to which Obama desperately wanted to appoint her–not just because Republicans oppose the agency’s powers, but because of her own radicalism. Now that she has been revealed to have lied, apparently about her Native American heritage, there is no possible way she could be confirmed for a Cabinet position, or any other requiring the approval of Congress. Yet Reid and Obama are counting on her.
So the "dog catcher" standard that Sen. Harry Reid has sought to apply to Romney–and which he has, with the mainstream media’s help, succeeded in applying to Romney–would have prevented Obama and his own nominees from taking office. But the media has not applied Reid’s standard to Obama, because the media almost always applies a double standard to Democrats and Republicans–especially so with Barack Obama. (Update: And would a man who confessed to eating dog meat be made dog catcher? I think not.)
To take only one of hundreds of examples of that double standard, in the 2000 campaign, Republican Sen. John McCain released thousands of pages of his medical records; he did so again (albeit only for a few hours) in 2008. But then-Senator Obama released a single page–the equivalent of an elementary school "doctor’s note"–and the media meekly accepted his release gratefully.
Case closed–and a man who had never held any position of serious responsibility in the public or private sector–neither dog catcher nor anything else–went on to win.