A seven-page questionnaire being sent by the office of President-elect Barack Obama to those seeking cabinet and other high-ranking posts may be the most extensive — some say invasive — application ever.
The questionnaire includes 63 requests for personal and professional records, some covering applicants’ spouses and grown children as well, that are forcing job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics, in shoe boxes, diaries and computer archives to document both their achievements and missteps.
Only the smallest details are excluded; traffic tickets carrying fines of less than $50 need not be reported, the application says. Applicants are asked whether they or anyone in their family owns a gun. They must include any e-mail that might embarrass the president-elect, along with any blog posts and links to their Facebook pages.
I had no illusions that Team Obama would really strike a blow for keepin' it real in politics -- they've been as controlling and square as any campaign, and it helped them win, so why change? But really, this mentality is totally crippling to our ability to govern. It's partly borne of the fear of "gotcha" politics, but it's also a matter of institutional culture. It's why the CIA can't get good talent, because the odds are here in the 21st Century if you're smart enough to be good at any job they need you for, you're at least a little bent one way or another and they don't like that. So they take a lot of B and C-level people who fit their mold, and gradually suck more and more wind over time.