President Obama is getting a lot of credit for admitting he “screwed up” the nomination of Tom Daschle to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. Here‘s what Obama told CBS News:
I made a judgment that he was the best person possible for the job. I was very eager to make sure that we can deliver on a commitment that I have to deliver healthcare for the American people. I think I messed up. I screwed up in not recognizing the perception that even though this is an honest mistake, I believe, on Tom’s part, that, you know, ordinary people are out there paying taxes every day and whether it’s an intentional mistake or not, it was sending the wrong signal. So again, this was something that was my fault. I continue to consider Tom Daschle an outstanding public servant, uh, and what we’re going to do now is make sure we get somebody confirmed and start moving forward.
But let’s examine this claim with a bit of care. President Obama’s argument is that “whether it’s an intentional mistake or not,” what Daschle did — which was to fail to report and pay his taxes — “was sending the wrong signal.” But of course that is precisely what Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner did — and Geithner’s actions are as questionable and troubling as Daschle’s. If Obama was serious about his mea culpa, Geithner would be asked to leave as well. His presence — especially as the person overseeing the IRS — is “sending the wrong signal.” Yet Geithner is staying firmly in place.
What this means, I suspect, is that Obama, smooth talking as ever, is trying to get credit by taking blame for the Daschle debacle. He is taking “full responsibility” –even though in practical terms that means nothing at all. After all, Obama and Democrats supported Daschle to the hilt until Daschle withdrew his nomination. Once he was gone, the revelation seemed to have dawned on Obama that he had made a mistake. But if the epiphany was real, it would apply to Secretary Geithner.
The other thing Obama did in his interviews yesterday was defend his waivers for allowing lobbyists to work in his Administration. His defense is that the waivers — which he never mentioned, not even once, during the campaign — were limited in number.
The reality, of course, is that Obama made a pledge and, within days of taking office, violated it. If he really wanted to show he was taking responsibility and was going to do better, Obama would enforce his lobbying ban or admit he was wrong to champion it in the first place. But to continue to insist that what he did was fine and that the waivers are no big deal is an indication, I think, that the old Washington game is being played by its newest resident. And such games are, to quote America ‘s 44th President, childish things.