Chris Nelson: Daschle Had to Go


The much respected and very tough to get Nelson Report thinks Daschle had to go. In contrast, I think Daschle’s departure signals the likely death of any near term comprehensive health care reform. Too many other dominoes will now crash down with Daschle’s withdrawal — and the Republicans will score this as a victory and want more. . .
But in the spirit of offering views that differ from my own from folks I respect, here is Chris Nelson’s take — and watch the video above and chuckle:
NELSON REPORT, 3 February 2009

DASCHLE…this may seem “inside baseball” to many, but increasingly one could sense the tide turning against former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and, we argue, it was for solid policy considerations, not just “saving face”.
If you had a “meter” to measure Obama’s willingness to take the damage required to force-through Daschle’s Cabinet confirmation…well, you could sense the needle dropping yesterday.
Mainly it was the matter of $100,000+ in back taxes and, god help us, failure to pay Medicaid contributions for a private driver he thought was a non-taxable “gift” from a business pal…coming after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s tax problems, and the advisor who quit this morning because of “nanny tax”…probably that was enough to doom Daschle.
Public and chattering class opinion increasingly was asking “how come these Obama people think they are so special they don’t have to pay taxes like the rest of us?”
A certain tone or atmosphere of privilege risked being “institutionalized” by Daschle, seeming to be part of a series, leading to “who’s next?” doubts about Obama’s ability to properly “vet” his senior associates, and even to questions about his basic values.
The failed Richardson candidacy for Secretary of Commerce, the Geithner and Daschle “tax cheat” problems, the “sin of lobbying” being “waived” to protect the choice for Deputy Secretary of Defense…all this risked looking like a pattern of not just neglect, but hypocrisy.
Obviously the decision was not easy…this morning’s Washington Post, for example, editorialized its way through a litany of criticisms of Daschle’s conduct and business activities, before concluding that basically he’s a great guy and should be confirmed.
The New York Times made the same analysis and nasty remarks, before concluding Daschle should step-down.
As indicated, we think there was also larger issue looming, and was the back breaker for this very able, still very popular, and, sadly, likely to have been very effective advocate and broker for rational solutions to the health care crisis.
He also inadvertently pulled down the curtain so the country and the world could see how “K Street” throws riches at the politically connected.
Daschle collected something like $5-million in salary, consulting and speaking fees since being defeated for re-election 5 years ago, and only by Wall Street’s appalling standards is this chump change.
If Obama had stayed with Daschle, he ran an increasing risk of the media and the public starting to say, hey, Daschle made all that money by being far more deeply involved in lobbying, and special interest activities, than the country was led to believe (by Candidate Obama) would ever be tolerated in his Administration.
Parenthetically, we always thought the “no lobbyists allowed” mantra was naive and stupid. Journalists are always shocked, shocked to discover that America is a capitalist democracy…and unfortunately, the “pay to play” scandals of Richardson, and in Illinois, shows that there ARE limits which need to be policed.
But you expect Obama above all to be supremely “rational”, as per his waiver demand for the DOD Deputy.
The Daschle mess meant “what gives, have you guys no shame?” would increasingly have been a cancerous risk for Obama’s moral mandate, undermining elite and popular belief that he and his Administration really DO represent a genuine break from the past, and “business as usual” in Washington.
One of Obama’s greatest appeals as a leader is that he makes us want to be better than we are…that’s an almost unique asset which you don’t carelessly spend at any time, and which may yet be the key to persuading Congress to quickly pass the Stimulus Package (not to mention national health care reform, at some point down the road).

— Steve Clemons


87 comments on “Chris Nelson: Daschle Had to Go

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *