Better to Have Promised and Broken, or Never to Have Promised at All?

Last week Politifact.com gave President Obama four Promise Kept ratings on his first day. Pretty remarkable, I think. The good-government folks went wild. They couldn't believe what they were hearing: at last, an open government with the strongest ethics laws ever, no lobbyists in the White House working on their former issues, no lobbying on those issues when members of the administration leave.

Alas, it was a bit too good to be true, since at the behest of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, President Obama is giving incoming Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn a pass on these tight restrictions. They will remain tight, all right — for everyone else — but not for Lynn, who was a lobbyist for Raytheon and will remain involved in decisions involving his former employer. Not a total waiver, but indeed a partial one.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), hardly staying out of the news these days, expressed his disappointment with the exception, saying, "While I applaud the president's action to implement new, more stringent ethical rules, I had hoped he would not find it necessary to waive them so soon."

I am not making the case against Lynn, and perhaps Gates is correct that Lynn is the best man for the job. But I am questioning promises — it is better to make bold ones and be forced to make exceptions? Or better not to make them at all?


SHOULD THE GOP BLOCK THE STIMULUS? WILL THEY BE RIGHT IN THE END? Ask A.B. returns Monday, Feb. 2. Please join my weekly video Q & A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

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