Monday, February 02, 2009

Why Obama Must Drop Daschle

President Barack Obama wants former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. There's just one snag: Daschle hadn't disclosed that he failed to pay $128,000 in taxes on the car and driver provided for him by Alston & Bird, the D.C. law and lobbying firm where he served as Special Public Policy Advisor to various health-care clients since 2005.

Then there's Tim Geithner, Obama's choice for Treasury Secretary, who is a former executive (2001-2003) of the International Monetary Fund, where he failed to pay $15,000 in Social Security taxes; taxes he was responsible for paying the government directly, since the IMF did not withhold them from his paychecks. He recently paid the tax plus almost $2000 in interest, but no penalties.

And in an effort to cleanse Washington from its diseased influence from special interests--rampant under the Bush administration--Obama announced strict new rules limiting lobbyist activity, promising that "no political appointees in an Obama administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years." The only problem was that just 24 hours later he appointed William Lynn III, a former lobbyist for U.S. defense contractor, Raytheon, to be a Deputy Secretary of Defense.

With these questionable appointments, the prevailing White House justification has been that each candidate is "uniquely qualified" for the job. But is that really good enough? Is that what Obama meant when he promised America that he was bringing a new moral and ethical standard to Washington in the post-Bush era? Is this really the message he wants to convey to voters in just his fist month in office; a message that it's ok to break or skirt the law just as long as you're a good guy with a special skill-set? Or that it's ok, as in the case with Lynn, to bend your own rules when it suits you?

The answer, of course, is no. Obama has an opportunity with Daschle to get his mission back on course, and to to deliver on his promise to hold his staff to higher standards. He should lead by example, and that means withdrawing the former Senate Majority/Minority Leader's nomination immediately before the soup gets too thick and he gives Republicans too much ammo in their opposition role.

Let's face it, there's plenty of folks who can fill Daschle's post. He's an extraneous piece of the Obama puzzle. He's simply not worth the fight; not worth the potential damage to Obama's reputation. Unlike Geithner, who's former role as head of the New York Fed makes him supremely qualified to help steer the nation through this deep economic and banking crisis, Daschle is expendable. Now don't get me wrong: I'm not justifying Geithner's appointment because he is "uniquely qualified.". The point is, if Obama wants to score points with voters and immediately shift the PR momentum, he can do so and still end up with the guy he really needs by casting off the one he doesn't. It's a smart political move.


Anonymous said...

I disagree. He is the best for the job.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more that Daschle should be passed by for any post in Obama's administration. Good character is more important that "uniquely qualified" unless the job's main requiraeent is the skill or propensity to steal. In fact, one of the smartest, therefore most "uniquely qualified" for "deep thinking" is Madoff. Give him a pardon and let him apply his high intelligence to a resonsible job with Obama's team if honesty has no merit.

Not only that, even when Daschle was in the Senate he was a "Republican light" and "caved" more times than not.

Is it that we should not be surprised at Obama's priorities, in light of his friends and associates in Chicago? Ethics/good character does not seem high on his list as a qualification for association.

Anonymous said...

I did not vote for Obama, but I really want to give him a chance to succeed and I really want to support him.

I praised him for his stated position on lobbyists.

His first 2 weeks are really turning me off. He has allowed 2 lobbyists into his administration in direct conflict with his stated position on lobbyists.

His nomination of a tax cheat for Treasury Secretary and now his nomination of another tax cheat (Tom Daschle) is a disgrace.

To quote Tom Daschle (1998), "Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter."

An honest person knows that Tom Daschle and Tim Geithner did not make honest mistakes with their taxes. These guys tried to get away with something. I ask anybody that challenges me on this to state whether or not they'd give Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity the same leeway for error if the names of the tax cheats were different.

If Obama continues this trend I, for one, will be forced to lean against everything the Obama administration does during his term.

At this point I think Obama should make a gesture of good will and subject everyone in his administration to a tax audit.

iWonder said...

In a general sense he is especially well qualified for this govenment post. Yet he is not the only qualified person to fill it.
From what I've read so far, this is not a clear case of tax evasion, rather the constant manipulation of our tax laws by the asset endowed to not pay a fair share of the communal tax debt.
We are all in this until we demand tax equality through open and equitable tax reform.

Anonymous said...

What I'd like to demand and get is "equaltiy" in the penalty for not paying taxes. I am "responsible" for any "honest mistake" my professional CPA might make. It seems, however, those in power are able to get away with it unless they happen to get a political appointment and their "theft" will be discovered.

Please -- equality in the enforcement of the law of the land.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely. There are a number of people who can do the health job but I disagree with you on Geithner. I think there were others who could do his job at treasury.

Anonymous said...

If Daschle didn't know he owed taxes and didn't have the intelligence to check it out, he is not smart enough to handle a responsible and difficult appointment in the administration. He should not be confirmed - he's either a crook or he is slow-witted.

Anonymous said...

What this all shows is that Obama is not what he claimed to be.

He wanted a break with the past, a break with the Clintons, and the place is overrun with Clintons.

He was against earmarks, and that bill his friends wrote is filled with pork that are earmarks or close enough to it.

He was against lobbyists, but Daschle was a lobbyist, his wife still is and the guy has tax problems to boot.

He is a fraud, but he smiles nice and says what people want to hear.

His biggest mistake was to allow this pork laden stimulus bill to be written solely by his own side.

This is the economic equivalent of a WAR and partisan politics should have nothing to do with things. Roosevelt put the former GOP VP in his cabinet and a GOP guy as his war secretary. He made a deal with Willkie during the election not to politicize a draft.

Obama is faced with economic war and what does he do? He says we wrote the bill because "we won", and allows it to be festooned with all sorts of crap that has no business being there, including millions for his political base.

He's making huge mistakes early on and its a shame.