Exit Tom Daschle?

Remember when Eric Holder was going to be the Cabinet appointee that got the most heat? Wasn't that the plan when all this started? The GOP would make a stink about the Marc Rich pardon, and then he would get confirmed, and everyone would move on? *sigh* Those were the days.

It seems that Tom Daschle is in a wee bit more hot water than originally suspected. From this morning's Times (!):

Unfortunately, new facts have come to light — involving his failure to pay substantial taxes that were owed and his sizable income from health-related companies while he worked in the private sector — that call into question his suitability for the job. We believe that Mr. Daschle ought to step aside and let the president choose a less-blemished successor.
I think this is a pretty big deal, myself. Everyone knows that the New York Times is the favored mouthpiece of the elite liberal chattering class. (It makes lovely reading while we nibble our brie.) And not only is the Times going after Daschle, so (per Politico) are the the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. However one chooses to interpret the various papers' objections to Daschle, the sudden opposition on some of the nation's premier opinion pages indicates that this story has legs.

Zachary Roth at TPM has gone through the various charges against Daschle, and many of them seem forgivable. Both the limo driver and the undeclared income for May 2007 are, if rather rarefied problems, at least plausible mistakes. More bothersome to me is this:

The issue that almost certainly has the greatest relevance for Daschle's desired new job as HHS Secretary is his work on behalf of healthcare-industry interests. In his financial disclosure statement, Daschle reported getting paid more than $390,000 for giving speeches to groups including America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade organization representing health insurers. He also got nearly $100,000 from health-related companies affected by federal regulation, including more than $5000 (again, the exact figure wasn't reported) for giving "policy advice" to the insurer UnitedHealth [emphasis in original]
I find this troubling. Now, on the one hand, Obama has pledged to bring about universal healthcare, and one could assume that he wouldn't have chosen Daschle if the latter were truly in the pocket of the insurance industry. But, as someone who takes universal healthcare very seriously, I am worried about a lack of commitment to the issue. Having someone with close ties to the industry in question makes me uneasy about the chances for truly progressive change.

That being said, Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic is bullish on Daschle's chances, and is optimistic that he'll bring about the necessary change. Hopefully, these questions will be asked, and answered convincingly before Daschle is confirmed.

But we shouldn't overlook the #1 factor in Daschle's favor, if not fitness for the job. As former Senate majority leader, he knows a lot of the people who will be voting on whether he gets the job. As much as Obama has claimed to be a change agent, this particular nomination will rely in large part upon Washington political insiderism.

Update: to the above tally, let us now add The New Yorker.

Update #2: And he's gone. Good.


  1. Time for Tom to step aside!

  2. Another appointee has withdrawn due to unspecified tax problems; Nancy Killefer, picked to scrub the budget.


    I have to say, this looks bad. Off the top of my head, Daschle, Geithner, Richardson, and now Killefer, on the Congressional side Dodd, Stevens, Rangel... at least Richardson and Killefer had the decency to withdraw.

    I suggest that the public demand a tax audit on every single member of Congress, every appointed Administrative post, and their spouses. Let the Republicans run the audit of Democrats, and Democrats run the audits of Republicans. Oh, and charge penalties for those "I forgot" moments, just like you or I would pay if we "forgot" to report tens of thousands in income. We might just make a dent in the deficit.