Commentary Magazine


This Is Not Hard

Sunday talk-shows were filled with a “wait and see” sort of mumbling and foot-shuffling from both Democratic and Republican Senators (except for the refreshingly blunt Sen. Jim DeMint) regarding Tom Daschle. But this is not difficult, fellas. Daschle took gobs of money from health care interests, had a six figure tax liability (which is approximately three times the average annual American household earnings) and didn’t tell the administration about it until nearly a month after being named as HHS nominee. And Senators have to think hard about this?

This tells us more, of course, about the Senate and President Obama than it does about Daschle. (The latter, as many knew for years, was the consummate Washington insider who used his position to fatten his wife’s lobbyist portfolio.) The Senate is tragically cut off from the real world and often immune to the lives and opinions of ordinary people. It simply doesn’t recognize what is outrageous. Perhaps the new RNC Chariman, Michael Steele, who is more in touch with his own party and the general public than most of the Senate, can push the GOP caucus in the right direction with more statements like this:

We’ve already let one cat out of the bag with (Treasury Secretary Timothy) Geithner. So what’s the standard down to, to be a Cabinet secretary? You don’t have to pay your taxes? Come on.

And the President? He (along with Max Baucus) doubles down on Daschle and expresses his continued support. This merely heightens the nagging sense that he and his team have a tin-ear for corruption and venality. They, who marinated in the juices of Chicago, seem dense when it comes to this sort of thing. They didn’t know enough to stay away from Blago, nix Bill Richardson, stick to their own lobbyist rules, dump Geithner and now lose Daschle. And this comes from the campaign that ran against the Clintons and the Washington tradition of sleazy dealing.

The White House may assume its own lofty poll numbers and the President’s personal appeal have rendered it impervious to examination or criticism. But that, I think, is a mistake. The public’s disgust is not easily extinguished. They will be saddened and more than a bit angry that the President, who promised an end to all this, thinks there’s nothing wrong with business as usual.

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