Now THIS Is Hypocrisy: Jack Lew Edition

cayman-islandsI know it pains many of you to hear it, but integrity has not been one of President Obama’s evident virtues, and the nomination of  his Chief of Staff Jack Lew to replace Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury is a particularly vivid example. The nomination demonstrates either hypocrisy or dishonesty (or both) no matter how one chooses to look at it.

This has nothing to do with Lew’s qualifications for the job: I’m certain he is sufficiently qualified, and is as likely as anyone else to help lead the nation through the fiscal wilderness, which is to say “not very.” The problem with Lew’s nomination, in the context of the President’s integrity, is two-fold. Although Obama and his campaign’s successful strategy was to demonize Mitt Romney as a grasping and venal corporate raider who accumulated big corporate bucks while doing little of value, Jack Lew’s resume includes receiving a $945,000 bonus in January 2009 after a short time working at Citigroup, which was in the process of collapsing financially and seeking (and receiving)a massive taxpayer bailout.  Obama also made hay during the campaign by implying there was something shady about Romney’s investments in Cayman islands-based institutions. Jack Lew. meanwhile, oversaw Cayman island investment funds while at Citigroup. In his 2008 campaign, Obama took special aim at one of them known as Ugland House, and a Senate hearing on the subject designated it as a facilitator of tax evasion. Jack Lew had investments in the Cayman islands, and, like Mitt Romney, had them with Ugland House.

How can one reconcile Lew’s past with Obama’s words and supposed values? One can’t. If the President really believes, as his attacks on Romney indicated, that accepting large corporate bonuses and investing in off-shore tax havens indicates too untrustworthy a character for public office, then it is hypocritical to nominate Lew at this crucial time for the nation’s economy. If, on the other hand, he believes that such conduct isn’t really very important when a man’s skills are what the nation needs for a crucial position, then his attacks on Romney were cynical and misrepresented his true beliefs.

Lew’s transgressions by Obama’s past stated standards seem worse than Mitt’s; after all, Mitt’s bonuses from Bain didn’t come when the company was bleeding red and seeking a bailout. Lew’s explanations to the GOP Senators grilling him on the matter yesterday didn’t shine with ethical clarity either. His justification for the bonus was, essentially, that everybody did it. Regarding his investments in the Caymans, Lew resorted to moral luck: he lost money, so the tax man wasn’t cheated out of cash. Neither is a real defense. His real defense is “It doesn’t matter.”

Maybe it doesn’t. His nomination indicates these things don’t matter to President Obama. That is not what the President told us before, however.


Sources: Washington Post, Weekly Standard

Graphic: rtseablog

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

7 thoughts on “Now THIS Is Hypocrisy: Jack Lew Edition

  1. I am convinced that no politician means what he or she says. I doubt that they even have “beliefs,” in the true sense of the word. It seems more that they choose sides, adopt positions, and then settle in to play their roles in a Grand Delusion of the public for as many terms as they can get away with.

    They pretend they are like us, and that they “feel our pain,” when in reality they are much more akin to each other, than to “regular” people. Politicians have developed into an odd hybrid of Celebrity and Nobility which by rights should not exist in a Republic, except that the electorate has become virtually incapable of discerning the Truth about them: Their kids go to the same (private) schools; their wives and other relatives get (lucrative) jobs and appointments due to official connections, and the (mostly) Old Boys themselves drink and play golf together at the same exclusive clubs. Then they go on Sunday morning TV and pretend to be appalled by one another.

    Half an hour after he is out of office, Obama will be on the phone with Romney asking him for investment advice!

  2. So the fact that he LOST money in the Cayman Islands accounts that he himself oversaw makes him fit to be Treasury Secretary? If we must have someone who specializes in shady practices, can we at least get someone who is GOOD at them? At least Romney was making money. This guy seems to sink every ship he heads. I don’t want him anywhere near my money or my economy.

  3. Holdren, Sunstein, Jennings, Lloyd, Holder, Ogden, Duncan, Koh, Clinton, Barnes, Geithner, Kagan… Lew joins an august group. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a single appointee from Obama that hasn’t made me immediately facepalm.

  4. I can’t add anything enlightening to Evangeline’s, Michael’s, or Aaron’s comments, except to agree that our nation is clearly being run by a bunch of crooks. And ask… what do we do about it?

    • Well, I voted. I also write my congressmen. Sometimes, one of them actually listens to me (or had the same idea I had about the issue) and writes not-completely-a-form-letter back with something semi-intelligent on it (I voted to re-elect him).

  5. I consider statements made in political campaigns to be on the same plane as the statments identified in Comment 2 to Rule 4.1, not material. No one relies on them.

    • And would that the rest of the electorate took the same wise approach, TT. Of course, this would be a fatal handicap for that rare truthtelling candidate, should be ever come along. Wait! We had Ron Paul! That didn’t pan out so well either, come to think of it…

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