Mr. Daschle’s sudden withdrawal comes two weeks to the day after Mr. Obama took office, and 24 hours after he told reporters that he “absolutely” stood by his nominee. The abrupt move stands to potentially dent the reputation for steadiness and managerial prowess that the 47-year-old president had cultivated over a smoothly run campaign and a transition to power that boasted of a swift vetting and nomination of top aides.
In a broadcast interview Tuesday night, Mr. Obama admitted to mistakes in handling the Daschle matter. “I’m here on television saying I screwed up and that’s part of the era of responsibility,” he told NBC News. “Ultimately it’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules. You know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”
The president added that he is “frustrated with myself, with our team,” but said, “ultimately my job is to get this thing back on track.”
Had this been the only setback or bobble of late, the reviews might have been less biting. But we know Daschle is not the only problematic nominee and the President’s signature piece of legislation is losing steam fast. Now a plurality of voters oppose the current bill.
Suddenly the press has snapped out of its cheerleading role. They are now frowning, fretting and voicing uneasiness. How could the smartest, most wonderful candidate ever in their lives be off to such a rocky start? They hardly know where to begin.
Before they start to outright panic, they should remember the President has huge political advantages, including plenty of votes in the Congress. If he stops the bleeding from his atrocious personnel decisions and reworks the stimulus he could be riding high again. But it just goes to show — lots of brainy Ivy Leaguers don’t necessarily govern well. It takes common sense, a proper appreciation for the limits of your own personal charm and a willingness to compromise on substance. So far there hasn’t been much of any of that.