Keepin’ It Real

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For reason I can’t begin to understand, the usually sensible Ezra Klein has decided to pretend that Tom Daschle’s nomination failed not because of his tax problem, but because over the past few years he had made $220,000 by advising insurance companies and other health care stakeholders — the very people whose interests he would now ostensibly be subjugating to the public interest.  In other words, Daschle’s problem was that he was too much like so many appointees in the last administration — an industry fox, guarding the public’s hen house.

I ignored it when it was just Ezra, but now it’s spreading, and I’ve got to put my foot down.  People, this is stupid.  Here’s why:

  1. It’s not true.  We’re supposed to be the reality-based community, remember?  The people who just make crap up when reality is inconvenient for them, that’s them other people over there, remember?
  2. It’s incredibly obvious it’s not true.  I mean, come on.  First of all, if Daschle’s problem was that he was too close to the industry stakeholders, his nomination would’ve been in trouble from the moment it was rumored.  Liberals would’ve loudly opposed his nomination, both because we’re the ones who don’t trust the corporate types, and because it would jeopardize our chances of getting universal health care legislation successfully passed.  But in all the time leading up to Daschle’s nomination, and in all the time between his nomination and his tax problem becoming public, I heard and read not one whisper of opposition along these lines from the left.  Not one.  And nobody in Obamaland thought Daschle would be a problem . . . until they found out about his tax problem.  Everybody was thrilled with Daschle.  He had the health care chops.  He had the legislative chops.  He had the president’s confidence.  He was the perfect guy for the job.  Or so everybody said.  Until they heard about his tax problem.

Those reasons strike me as sufficient.  So, guys, get real.  You’re not fooling anybody.  You’re just making yourselves look silly.

If you have some actual evidence that Daschle’s nomination was scuttled because of conflicts of interest, write about that.  But stop just asserting it as if it’s true, when all the evidence points the other way.   Ezra does offer, if not evidence, at least something of an argument, though not a good one:

But if Daschle’s actions were forgivable in the eyes of President Obama, they still stood in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of candidate Obama. And that turned out to matter. In explaining his decision to withdraw, Daschle pointed to two New York Times articles. One was an editorial that concluded, “Mr. Daschle is another in a long line of politicians who move cozily between government and industry…[and] could potentially throw a cloud over health care reform.” The other was a front page news story that said “Obama’s ethics rules face an early test” and noted that “Mr. Obama on his first day in office imposed perhaps the toughest ethics rules of any president in modern times, and since then he and his advisers have been trying to explain why they do not cover this case or that case.” It was this coverage — not a word from Obama or an attack by the Republicans — that drove Daschle to withdraw his nomination. And this coverage would not have existed had Obama not run the campaign he did.

Here’s the problem with that: if Obama was worried about dissonance between his campaign rhetoric and Daschle’s industry ties, what was he going to do if Daschle was confirmed?  Why nominate him at all?  Everybody knew about Daschle’s industry ties well before his nomination.  Everybody in Obamaland, everybody in the senate, everybody at the New York Times, everybody in the liberal blogosphere who has made health care reform one of their pet interests.  Any of them could’ve created the same embarrassment at any time during or after Daschle’s confirmation.  If you’re Obama and your concern is what Ezra says it is, why nominate Daschle at all?

Moreover, if that were Obama’s concern, the best and easiest way to alleviate it would’ve been not to force through a registered defense industry lobbyist for a position at Defense, and a registered Wall Street lobbyist for one at Treasury.  Compared to those guys, Daschle’s conflict of interest is miniscule.

The fact is, nobody cared about Daschle’s industry ties and Obama knew it.  Nobody in the senate, nobody in the media, nobody in the liberal blogosphere.  Nobody.  Until they found out about his tax problem.

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5 Responses to “Keepin’ It Real”

  1. dejon05 Says:

    Here’s how I see it.

    Obama nominated Daschle because he really was the best candidate. Unique Senate experience, particularly his involvement in the Clinton Admin’s attempt at healthcare reform.

    His problem, centrally, wasn’t his tax issues. It was that he was about the fifth person in or nominated by the Obama Admin to have this issue. The media and the American public live and die by the “one time shame on you, two times shame on me” mentality.

    ISTM, Geithner’s tax issues were much less forgivable. I mean his is the Treasury Secretary. Seriously… The IRS reports to him!

    Daschle had to go… for the timing more then the substance of his shortcomings.

    All that said, I don’t think the “martyr” of Tom Daschle will set back HC policy all that much. But what do I know.

  2. urbino Says:

    Oh, yeah, I agree that his tax issue wouldn’t have been a problem if he hadn’t been the third nominee to have one. But his problem was still his tax issue; not that he used to do consulting work for the insurance industry.

    I don’t think not-Daschle will set things back much, either. The main problem it presents — and this is something Ezra pointed out — is it sets back the calendar. Instead of being ready to get to work on the legislation tomorrow, the WH will have to wait until it can find another candidate (apparently they were so confident in Daschle they didn’t even search for alternates), get that person vetted, get them confirmed, and get them up to speed on all the things Daschle already knew because he’s been working on this issue with Obama from the get-go.

    Some people worry that setting back the calendar is a big deal because if legislation doesn’t get passed this year, it won’t get passed at all.

  3. dejon05 Says:

    Completely off topic…

    I hope you don’t mind if I celebrate for a second.

    IMO George W. Bush’s most unforgivable mis-step as president (and, yes, I fully understand the gravity of that statement) was that he vetoed SCHIP… twice. This move disgusted me then, and always will. I was trying with all my might to give Bush credit before his first veto. After his second, I swore him off.

    Thank you President Obama for getting it right.

    Video of the President’s address before signing the bill here.

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled program already in progress.

  4. dejon05 Says:

    Second attempt at video… http://www.everydaycitizen.com/2009/02/obama_signs_schip_bill.html

  5. urbino Says:

    I hope you don’t mind if I celebrate for a second.

    We’ll take all the celebrations we can get.

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