Could the White House at least vet candidates for fashion sense, if not their arrest records? Vivek Kundra, the scandal-drenched federal CIO, was arrested in 1996 for shoplifting four dress shirts. From J.C. Penney.
Is there some backstory about how Vivek was dead broke and needed a dress shirt for a job interview? Because right now, we not only think Vivek is a petty thief, we think he's a petty thief with bad taste in clothes.
No wonder White House officials were so cagey about Kundra's crime, which they wrote off as a "youthful indiscretion". The Obama administration reinstated Kundra to his CIO job after placing him a five-day leave, which followed the arrest of Yusuf Acar, an IT manager who worked under Kundra in his previous job as chief technology offer for the D.C. city government, for an alleged $6 million bribery scheme.
Kundra was not implicated in the bribery charges. But the misdeeds are said to have unfolded on his watch.
Here's the real scandal: Kundra, a former marketing executive, has no real tech chops. The credulous geek fanboy community has embraced him as one of his own, forgiven his scandals, and cheered his return to office. Why? He's nothing more than a Web 2.0 flimflam artist, best known for giving speeches about how the government should be more like Wikipedia and YouTube — the kind of happy talk that wins him kudos on Twitter, but has nothing to do with the hard work of making government IT systems work better.
The J.C. Penney thing? It's not a "youthful indiscretion." It's a signal note of Kundra's character — the foolish thought that something can be had for nothing. But in that, he shares a lot in common with the faddish Silicon Valley crowd which jubilated over his appointment.