Tom Daschle: OY!!

Posted on February 3, 2009
Filed Under Deep Thoughts | 261 Comments

Two weeks ago today, I celebrated the innauguration of Barack Obama with a rave review of Tom Daschle’s book, Critical.  Unfortunately, recent press revelations have severely tarnished Mr. Daschle’s reputation.  Yesterday Tom Daschle even issued an apology to the Senate Finance Committee.

Apology for what?  On Friday it was reported by the New York Times that Mr. Daschle delayed paying $128,000.00 in Federal income tax until after he was asked to serve as HHS secretary.  Later the Times reported that Mr. Daschle knew of the potential tax liability as early as June.  And yet, he did not inform the Obama camp.  Much of this had to do with the free use of a car (with a full-time driver).  Apparently it did not occur to Mr. Daschle that this perk might actually be considered income–and therefore subject to tax. 

This unpleasant story was dumped on Friday in an age-old hope that it would die of non-interest over the Super Bowl weekend.  But this story didn’t die.  To mix metaphors:  it snowballed.  First came the tax story in the Times, then came a Politico follow-up.  Then more tax reporting from the Times.  And finally on Monday, the most incoTom Daschlenvenient piece:  “In Daschle’s Tax Woes, a Peek into Washington.”  This New York Times article exquisitely described how the down-home, populist was living a high life in Washington–earning 2.2 million dollars in two years.  The source of all these funds:  $30,000.00 speaking fees, six figure consulting fees, etc, etc.  What was Mr. Daschle doing to earn all this money (not to mention that 24-7 car with driver)?  Well, he was lobbying.  No I can’t actually say that without potentially getting sued.  Mr. Daschle was not technically, legally lobbying in Washington.  Because Mr. Daschle was not actually registered as a lobbyist in Washington.  So, in this case, Mr. Daschle is not subject to President Obama’s ban on lobbyists.  But it doesn’t look good.  Especially since some of the firms he was (not) lobbying for included businesses that would likely be subject to decisions he would make as health czar.

Apologies are good I think.  They imply a certain willingess to learn from mistakes.  Apparently Mr. Daschle has made quite a few.  I’m not ready to suggest that President Obama replace Mr. Daschle with Howard Dean.  Indeed there is a certain logic to appointing Mr. Daschle now.  This “nobody knows the chicken coop better than the fox” argument is how Joseph Kennedy found himself serving in the Roosevelt administration.  I’m not politically sophisticated enough to know what should happen next.  But whether or not Mr. Daschle ends up serving as the HHS Secretary, his reputation has undeniably been damaged by these recent revelations.  And that’s not a good thing for a “czar.”

UPDATE:  CNN is reporting that Tom Daschle has withdrawn his name for consideration of the HHS post.  Right now it appears to me that the cause of health care reform in the US has been dealt a severe setback.  But I’ve been wrong before.

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