Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Daschle Withdraws from Cabinet Post, Smith Dems Are Confused

One of the things I like best about President Obama is that he surrounds himself with good, smart people. His advisors are (in this Dems opinion) members of the small Washington tribe of "people who actually know what they're talking about".

It was this ability to separate the real thinkers from the b.s.ers that convinced me during the campaign that despite his alleged "inexperience," he was a leader of singular vision and good judgement.

So....what's with the Tom Daschle thing? Senator Tom Daschle, an early supporter of the Obama for Preisdent campaign looked all set to become Health and Human Services Secretary. It's a major post, responsible for (among other things) establishing the new healthcare regime that was a hallmark of the President's campaign. Now it turns out that Daschle did not pay $128,000 worth of income tax for a car and driver given to him by a Democratic fundraiser. Now Daschle, realizing his impropriety, did pay his back taxes ($140,000) on January 2nd, and it was thought that his tax problems could be overcome. After all, he's not the first Obama nominee to face IRS problems and according to Daschle his tax oversight was an "honest mistake".

It turns out that the "honest mistake" was judged to be too big a problem after all, and Senator Daschle has withdrawn his name from consideration. This could mean a lot of things, besides the tax problem. Possibly another issue had surfaced that Daschle didn't want coming out in the confirmation hearing, so he chose to withdraw. Perhaps the tax issue was becoming too complicated and drawing attention from other things the White House wanted to focus on. At any rate, I'm surprised and a little confused that a White House known for its meticulous, well-thought-out style could allow such a gaffe to happen.

I have no doubt that Daschle would have made a great cabinet secretary. But paying taxes is required by law, and no one, especially members of the executive branch, should get a free pass on that. Democrats have to police themselves, and the White House has to vet as carefully as possible in these fragile early days of the presidency. Now is the time when we can make the biggest leaps forward in legislation and we cannot let a variety of scandals, even low-level tax scandals, pull us down.