Distributed by the office of President-elect Barack Obama
Though over 7,000 jobs are expected to become available in President-elect Barack Obama's Administration, applying for them is not for the faint of heart or character. In order to compete for any of the positions, from U.S. coordinator for Afghanistan to staff assistant in the Department of Public Affairs, prospective Obamans need to fill out a grueling seven-page questionnaire created by Obama's transition team to ensure that all members of the next Administration have had their closets spring-cleaned of any skeletons well in advance.
The questionnaire leaves no stone unturned in its 63-part effort to excavate any personal or professional transgressions in a candidate's past. Sample indiscretions run the gamut from criminal convictions and tax fraud to text messages or personal diary entries that could be a "possible source of embarrassment" to the President-elect if made public. (See pictures of Barack Obama's campaign behind the scenes.)
Question #12. Please identify all speeches you have given. If available, please provide the text or recordings of each such speech or identify any recordings of speeches of which you are aware.
While this might immediately eliminate a few notorious public figures like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, say, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad it's harder to tell whether there might be any hidden evils lurking in the dusty VHS recording of your high school graduation speech, other than the bad haircut.
Question #18. Please specifically describe any affiliation you or your spouse or any member of your immediate family have or have had with any financial, banking, mortgage or insurance institution that is currently the subject of federal government intervention as part of the ongoing economic crisis. This question includes, but is not limited to, the following: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and Washington Mutual.
Though the question seems ominous in nature, answering "yes" may not necessarily be a deal breaker. Obama's pick for chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, served on the board of directors for Freddie Mac at the time of its downfall. These people need a job somewhere.
Question #59. Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage.
The NRA has taken up arms (figuratively) over this clause in the questionnaire, condemning it as "biased" on the basis that applicants are not questioned on their use of motor vehicles, arguing that more deaths and injuries occur through auto accidents than firearms. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint spoke out against the question, declaring his intent to "enact legislation to prohibit this type of discrimination."
Question #10. Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or handles you have used to communicate on the Internet.
Depending on how wide the net is cast for potential Administration employees, the number of books or other print publications should remain relatively manageable for those lucky enough to be tasked with collating these applications. But sifting through all "readily available" blogs and Internet posts in an era when every self-respecting teenager averages a dozen weekly Facebook updates is a challenge of Herculean proportions.
Question #32. Other than from relatives, or from close and long-standing personal friends on occasions such as birthdays or seasonal holidays, have you or your spouse ever received a gift exceeding fifty dollars in value? Please identify the donor, the value of the gift, the date received and the circumstances in which the gift was made.
Time to dig up the old wedding registry to check whether the Williams and Sonoma bread maker in the back of the cupboard was over $50. Does your second cousin's plus-one count as a "close personal friend"?
Question #55. Have you paid all taxes and Social Security obligations applicable to the employment of [occasional or regular domestic help]? Otherwise known as the Zoe Baird Memorial Gotcha! Question, after Bill Clinton's unsuccessful nominee for Attorney General. Baird's Nannygate and a similar dustup involving Bernard Kerik, George W. Bush's nominee for Homeland Security Secretary in 2004 are pretty obviously the inspirations for this clause, as both scandals severely muddled the respective Presidents' transition plans. Nevertheless, the verdict on this question is mixed. "I don't want somebody disqualified who can help solve the economic problem because they didn't pay the dog-sitter's Social Security," argued former Congressman John Kasich in a Nov. 14 interview with Fox News.
Several pundits have criticized the extreme nature of the vetting process used by the questionnaire, though the transition team stands by the measure, defending it as a necessary step toward their goal of avoiding the influence-peddling and personnel scandals that have plagued past transitions. While the questionnaire may seem intimidating, the questions it poses aren't necessarily intended to give a good sense of an applicant's ability to successfully perform a government job. It's also unlikely that a few wrong answers would be reason enough for elimination, especially given that the President-elect himself would not have emerged from answering the questionnaire unscathed. (Question #20 asks the applicant to detail any past or present associations that might have "the potential for embarrassment." Bill Ayers, anyone?) For those brave enough to get through the questions, an adventurous career in government service awaits: the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs has published a guide called the Plum Book which lists the government jobs currently accepting applications. Happy hunting.
The Verdict: Read