Tom Daschle Withdraws: Another Ethics Casualty for Obama
How quickly they fall. Tom Daschle, who just yesterday had the full backing of President Barack Obama, has announced he is withdrawing his name from consideration as Health and Human Services secretary. For both Daschle and Obama, it has been a rough ride, calling into question the latter's judgment and skill as a chief executive.
President Barack Obama rode into Washington on a veritable cloud of goodwill and sky-high expectations. The mainstream media had swooned over his transition with some justification. They had swooned over his inaugural speech with far less. But hopes, even among conservatives, were high for a break from business as usual, a degree of bipartisan pragmatism and a can-do approach to solving the nation's economic problems. But in a mere two weeks, the thrill is gone and nagging questions have begun.
Most glaringly, we have been treated to a raft of embarrassing personnel issues. Tim Geithner made it through the confirmation hearing but Bill Richardson did not; nor did the "chief performance officer" who could not perform the task of paying all her own taxes. Then Tom Daschle, who just yesterday garnered the support of President Obama and Democrats in the Senate, has now announced he is backing out. This followed a storm of criticism from not just conservatives who are aghast at the tax cheats and revolving-door-ism. Marie Cocco summed up:
No need to fumble for words that sum up the stew of hypocrisy, arrogance, and insiderism that is the unfolding saga of Tom Daschle. This is the audacity of audacity. ... The rationale for confirming Geithner was that he is a financial wizard -- one of a handful of people, it was argued, with the experience and intellect necessary to manage the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression. But surely there is more than one Democrat capable of managing the Department of Health and Human Services. And undoubtedly there is more than one -- there are perhaps, hundreds -- as committed to the cause of revamping the health care system. Daschle isn't indispensable. But he is indefensible.
And Richard Cohen was no less critical:
Taken individually, the tax problems of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the health and human services secretary-designate, Tom Daschle, don't amount to much. Together, though, they amount to a message: If you are beloved by this administration, you don't necessarily have to play by the rules. Both Geithner and Daschle are good men, but their appointments send the message that Washington's new broom sweeps a bit like the old one.
The Daschle debacle is not the only problem bedeviling the Obama team. This follows a slew of ethics waivers which has made the so-called ethics rules (prohibiting ex-lobbyists from working on issues for which they previously lobbied) into Swiss cheese. The good-government types are fuming. And even the MSM has noticed the pattern, which includes an ethics waiver for William Lynn, a former lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon who has been nominated for the Pentagon's number two job.
TIME magazine explains:
But the controversy over the waivers, which have been criticized by both Democratic and Republican senators, is just one of the perception problems dogging Obama's new ethics policy. Another issue stems from the people nominated to the administration who have worked in the lobbying business but are not technically lobbyists -- people, in other words, like Tom Daschle, or former Senator George Mitchell, the new Middle East peace envoy who had previously served as the chairman of a law firm that has done lobbying and legal work for many clients in the region, including the leader of Dubai.
In short, we are back to the very same Washington, D.C., brew of sleaze, double standards, ethical lapses, and hypocrisy. That it comes from an administration which ran on such a sanctimonious platform only makes it that much more disappointing and indeed infuriating.