Commentary Magazine


Re: This Is Not Hard

The muted reaction of Republicans to Tom Daschle’s multiple tax issues is somewhat baffling. A couple of explanations are possible. First, Roll Call (subscription required) suggests the GOP caucus has adopted a “hearing first, shoot later” approach:

“Leadership has encouraged Members of the relevant committees to withhold their support or opposition [publicly] until they’ve completed a thorough hearing,” one Republican leadership aide said, adding that “it’s not very helpful when members of the committee pledge their support or pledge their opposition before the hearings even start.”

Another possibility is that the Republicans really are dense and have missed the import of yet another tax cheat appointee.

If you accept the first explanation then this is a rather clever tactic. Lure the Democrats out on to a limb, hold the hearing, and then slam them over Daschle, leaving the White House and Democrats to defend yet another objectionable lobbyist/tax scofflaw appointee. But could Republicans be that organized and disciplined? It would be remarkable if they were. And it doesn’t appear that Tom Coburn got the memo:

” We have to reestablish character and integrity in the leaders in this government and this doesn’t pass it. It’s going to be a very difficult time for him. And even if he does get confirmed, the American people are gonna reject this. They’re gonna say how can you say you’re gonna create a new standard of openness and awareness and transparency and have two of your key people have problems with the IRS where you and I had we done the same thing we’d be going to jail.”

For those Republicans who are remaining mute, they may want to reconsider. Silence is a dangerous game, giving the appearance that Republicans are behind the curve and out to lunch. In the meantime groups like Americans for Tax Reform are chiming in:

“Tom Daschle, like Leona Helmsley, believes only ‘the little people’ should pay taxes,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.  “He thinks he’s too important for that, and he gives the word ‘hypocrisy’ a bad odor.”

Unless the Republicans are sensitive to the building outrage — and quickly — they are unlikely to come out smelling any better than the hapless Democrats. And that’s not what they need right now.