Amateur hour in Washington

During the emerging Watergate scandal that brought down the Presidential administration of Richard M. Nixon, FBI Associate Director Mark Felt — the shadowy "Deep Throat" source who fed information to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, told Woodword to ignore the myths that surround the White House.

"The truth is, these aren’t very bright people and things got out of control," Felt said.

When you work inside the government of the United States — as I did from 1981-87 — you quickly discover with no small amount of shock and dismay that Felt’s description of the White House applies to those who control our lives from both ends of the Mall in Washington.

Elected office, unfortunately, does not attract the best and the brightest. Politics is a breeding ground for the fast-talkers, the con-artists and the propagandists. The President of the United States is a master of rhetoric but a novice at the nuances of government. He built his administration by surrounding himself with a collection of Washington insiders who know how to play the system for their own advantage but have done much to contribute to the problems this nation faces.

Barack Obama is a political operatives dream: A mixed-heritage American success story with great stage presence and the ability to deliver a powerful speech when he has a teleprompter at hand.

Dreams, however, often fade under the glare of reality and Obama the President is a far cry from Obama the candidate. He is a deer caught in the glare of headlights from an oncoming car.

Obama surrounded himself with questionable key officials in his administration: Rahm Emmanuel, the take-no-prisoners Congressman and former political consultant as chief of staff; Treasury Tim Geithner, who — while at the Fed — ignored the warning signs of a meltdown in financial markets and now is entrusted with fixing the system he helped break; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady and Senator whose time in the Senate was only a few years longer than Obama’s and whose foreign policy experience is as skimpy as the g-string on a stripper.

Down at the other end of the Mall, Congress is under the control of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the inept daughter of one of the most corrupt mayors in Baltimore history and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a bagman for the Navada casino industry.

Congress has long been a repository for people who failed in business life or brought their own demons with them when they came to Washington.  Several of the members of Congress that we uncovered in our 1999 series — America’s Criminal Class: The Congress of the United States — remain in their seats, including:

Rep. Jim Moran, the drunken bar brawler and wife-beater;

Sen. Robert Byrd, who uses the Constitution to avoid the law;

Rep. Corrine Brown, the con-artist who left a trail of bad checks, bad debts and failed businesses in Flordia;

The promises of change that drove the 2006 mid-term elections and 2008 Presidential election have not come. Washington remains a town where the government is run by the inept, the corrupt and the opportunistic.

A French proverb once noted that "the more things change, the more they stay the same."  Rockers The Who borrowed an old Mafia line for their song Won’t Get Fooled Again to sing: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

But Mark Felt, aka "Deep Throat," put it best in a shadowy garage in Arlington, Virginia, 36 years ago when he told Bob Woodward:

"The truth is, these weren’t very bright people and things got out of control."

Sadly, the same is still true today.