If you want a job in an Obama administration, be prepared to disclose every blog post or comment you've ever written.
A nine-page questionnaire requires applicants to list--and if possible, provide copies of--all "posts or comments on blogs or other Web sites" they have ever made. Also required are "aliases" or nicknames used on those sites.
Translated into English, this means that President-elect Obama wants to know far more about you than his predecessors did. That requirement would force applicants to disclose information about Facebook and MySpace pages, profiles posted on dating Web sites, and even what was posted on Web sites like CNET and YouTube that allow readers to append comments.
Note that question doesn't only ask for potentially embarrassing or incendiary posts. It wants a list of "each" one.
It also asks for the URLs of "any Web sites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity," and suggests MySpace and Facebook by name as examples. Dating sites like Match.com would be included, too.
Perhaps this won't be a problem for older Democrats vying for senior positions like treasury secretary or attorney general. But for today's Facebook-and-YouTube generation, requesting a list (and, "if readily available," a copy) of all Web site posts and comments the applicant ever made is not a trivial task to complete--and means that the Obama administration may not be quite as tech-savvy as its reputation would indicate.
These and other questions seem to represent Obama's plan to avoid the the Lani Guinier Effect. President Clinton appointed Guinier as assistant attorney general, and then was forced to withdraw her nomination in the face of severe criticism. Clinton claimed at the time that he had not read her writings favoring racial quotas.
Clinton also was forced to withdraw the nominations of Zoe Baird and Judge Kimba Wood for attorney general because of questions about whether they paid employment taxes for their nannies. President George W. Bush had the same problem with former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, appointed to be Homeland Security secretary.
Obama's questionnaire seeks to remedy that problem. It asks four questions about domestic help, including housekeepers, babysitters, nannies, and gardeners. It asks about child support payments, information about enemies that may "criticize" your nomination, tax returns, loans, jobs held abroad, and so on.
One question asks: "Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information."
That's raised eyebrows among gun owners--and drawn fire from the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action--because there is no general federal requirement that guns be registered. Under federal law, it's possible to be given a firearm by a family member or purchase one from a private party without your name being included in a federal database. (Laws in a handful of states, including California, are more restrictive.)
In a 1996 survey sent to state politicians, Obama said he supports a law banning the "possession" of handguns. He also indicated he supported Washington, D.C.'s gun ban, which was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. His campaign Web site said the Second Amendment protects an individual right and noted that "millions of hunters and shooters own and use guns every year," but did not mention firearms used for self-defense.