Mr. Daschle's Ride

Benjamin Franklin was off the mark.  A penny saved is a penny taxed, it seems. If only he had kept his old ride (frankly, I'm surprised he didn't drive a pick up truck). Why, Tom, why?

Seriously, though, Mr. Daschle's tax problems should not have disqualified the former Senator from South Dakota turned lobbyist for the H&HS Cabinet post. Mr. Daschle was "uniquely qualified" for this position. His loss is not just a loss for the Obama Administration but a loss for the country. President Obama will be hard pressed to find another candidate with the same background though perhaps it's not required. Besides his Congressional experiences in both the House and Senate, Mr. Daschle authored a well-received book, Critical: What We can Do About the Health-Care Crisis in which the former Senate Minority Leader argues the United States cannot neglect the issue any longer because it weakens US competitiveness. And while he backtracked from a pure single payer system where the government is the sole insurer, Mr. Daschle's proposals would have likely moved the ball forward in that direction. Moreover, I believe that he had the clout to see its passage through the US Senate.

The above ad is from 1986 when Congressman Daschle unseated incumbent Republican James Abdnor to become a Senator from South Dakota. The ad is further proof that the longer one's tenure in Washington, the more removed one becomes from the realities outside the Beltway. Because what should have upset people isn't Mr. Daschle's unpaid taxes on a free ride but rather from the fact that he advised insurance companies and made hundreds of thousands giving speeches to industry groups. Whatever values the young Tom Daschle had back in 1986 where a distant memory post his Senate career where he sought to cash in on his service in government. From today's New York Times editorial:

Mr. Daschle's financial ties to major players in the health care industry may prove to be even more troublesome as health reform efforts proceed. Like many former power players in Washington, Mr. Daschle cashed in on his political savvy and influence to earn $5 million in recent years, including more than $2 million from Alston & Bird, a law and lobbying firm; more than $2 million from the private equity firm, InterMedia Advisors, which provided the car and driver; and hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches to interest groups, including those representing health insurance plans, medical equipment distributors and pharmacy boards.

That might explain why Mr. Daschle no longer held his 1971 Pontiac in such high esteem. The values expressed in the ad seem long abandoned. Did the man change Washington or did Washington change the man? How does a man who in 1986 touts his parsimonious attachment to a clunker that he himself drove to work become a man who 23 years later finds himself owing $128,000 back taxes for a car & driver? What does this say about values?

The car was a perk, but Mr. Daschle's free ride was cashing in on his Washington ties and it was in poor taste. Still, whatever Mr. Daschle's shortcomings, the fact remains that he was rather uniquely qualified to lead the charge on reforming a broken health care system. Let's hope that when politicians in future decide they want to cash in that they realize that it does in effect mean the end of their political career.

Tags: H&HS, health care reform, Obama Cabinet, Tom Daschle (all tags)

Comments

20 Comments

Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

I think it's a huge setback for health care reform...

Baucus is now the lead guy... whether or not he gets enough republicans onboard is a question.  I guess they are pissed that we expanded SCHIP too much... but, our amendments passed with supermajorities... will those supermajorities still be there in the end?  Who knows?

We only need one (and keep our caucus together, are you listening Mary Landrieu?  God, I hate her... it's not only that she's a republican lite, but I think she is seriously stupid if she actually belives the bogus explanations she gives for stabbing us in the back).

by LordMike 2009-02-03 08:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

I agree it is a setback.

by Charles Lemos 2009-02-03 08:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

I am not in full agreement. I do believe Daschle was basically a good guy, however, his book on health care reform stated that he would set up an oversight board.

Precisely why , would that be a universal healthcare reform item?

Seems to me the easiest way to do this is to simply adopt the Fed. plan, tune it to offer to all americans. and otherwise put another six soon to be employed 'oversight board members' to work , looking elsewhere to find lobbyist cash to fund their 'oversight activities'.

by Trey Rentz 2009-02-03 09:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

If Tom Daschle were really so uniquely qualified to get health care reform passed, we should have just elected him President.  Personally I'm just not convinced that he was the magic man.

by Steve M 2009-02-03 08:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

Frankly, Daschle, Obama (and for that matter Killefer and Geithner, all ought to know a hell of a lot better.

How many cabinet appointees were derailed during the Clinton & Bush the Younger administrations over unpaid housekeeper Social Security or unpaid tax issues.  It's a pretty broad swath.

Daschle needed to go for the sheer stupidity of his being nominated in the first place.  Stupidity on his part for failing to realize there was no way his tax problems were going to escape scrutiny, and on Obama's part for failure to vet.

Yes, it's a setback for health care, but not that much, in light of Daschle's rather large ethical questions.  Because when push came to shove, had Daschle made it through the hearings and been confirmed (doubtful, actually), I can assure you the Repugs would have torpedoed health care with their usual attack the messenger (Daschle) to destroy the message (Health care reform) gambit, and it would have been 1993 Redux.

by DesertRat 2009-02-03 08:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

What "ethical" questions.  He made a mistake... on taxes -- is that an ethical question.  He was on the board of the Mayo Clinic ...  

by StephenC 2009-02-04 04:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

Where did Daschle make his millions the last few years? Do you think perhaps that was a conflict of interest and exactly the type of influence peddling that President Obama said he was trying to avoid in his administration?

I put this more on President Obama than Daschle at this point. How come President Obama didn't realize how bad this would look in the first place? Was he aware of everything that Daschle had done before he made the nomination? Why did he firmly back Daschle until Daschle withdrew?

Talk about giving ammunition to your opponents.

by tpeichel 2009-02-04 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

Without the taxes, he would have sailed through.  I do not think he had "a conflict of interest".  He was levering legislation on the industry.  He was giving lectures "to" the industry.  I agree that this did spin out of control -- because of Daschle's own failure.  But I don't think he realized that he would owned as much as he did.  The amount was really bad news. (I don't think you can make a case that Daschle was involved "influence peddling" --- except that in the sense that he was "peddling" his own influence as a spokesperson for reform.

There is something else here.  Obama wanted Daschle despite Daschle's mistakes.  He did not throw him under the bus.  Apparently, Daschle brother is in the hospital with a brain tumor and this was the reason why he finally decided he could not continue to fight for his confirmation.

by StephenC 2009-02-04 11:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

You may be right, but as a regular person, I can't imagine giving someone millions of dollars to just give speeches to the industry. It just seems like there has to be more. What else was he doing that provided so much value?

by tpeichel 2009-02-04 11:40AM | 0 recs
Obama Apologized for the Appt.

Obama stated that he sent the wrong message to the American people. The message that the political elite are to be treated differently than anyone else.

He said it sent the wrong signal, it is not a signal of change.

What we have here is a president who can not only admit his mistakes gracefully but move on and find someone better.

And that is what he's going to do.
Daschle was good but Dean will be , if the pres. so chooses.. great.

by Trey Rentz 2009-02-03 09:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Apologized for the Appt.

I think Dean is the wrong person to lead health reform.  The skills which made him a great DNC Chair - idependence and an f-you attitude to those who didn't agree with his direction - will kill health reform quickly.  A successful health reform effort is going to be like threading a needle and will require building a coalition of labor, businesses, consumer groups, hospitals-doctors-other health care providers and isolating the insurers and drug companies who will oppose almost anything.  I don't see Dean's personality being well suited to the role of coalition builder.  

Frankly, I'd split HHS Secy and leading health reform into two jobs headed by 2 people.  Being the head of HHS is a huge job and I think Dean would be good at that aspect.  I'd put someone with a much defter hand in charge of leading the health reform effort.

by jmnyc 2009-02-04 05:41AM | 0 recs
Incidentally for the record

I agree with you that Daschle's ties to Insurance companies and even the fact that he's working for the same firm that handled the Enron implosion, are the issue.

But anyway. Maybe the game in DC is changing. Who knows.

by Trey Rentz 2009-02-03 09:56PM | 0 recs
the hypocrisy stinks to high heaven!

by suzieg 2009-02-04 12:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

Hi, My name is amana, I agree with you,I do believe Daschle was basically a good guy, however, his book on health care reform stated that he would set up an oversight board. I appreciate your efforts in this regard.

Amana

by great9127 2009-02-04 01:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

What precisely is your question?

Daschle advocates a Federal Reserve type oversight board. I think most progressives would agree that a single payer where the govt is the insurer is the solution. Under the Obama plan, a govt insurance plan is an option. The argument runs that this option in the long run will be the only option as more and more people opt for the plan.

by Charles Lemos 2009-02-04 06:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

Great post. What a crash.

by Jerome Armstrong 2009-02-04 03:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

Bad decision... yes.  Poor taste.... yes.   But he was one of the few people who had the full range of skill sets to drive health reform through the congressional minefield.  

by StephenC 2009-02-04 04:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

Pretty much my point. Thx.

by Charles Lemos 2009-02-04 06:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

If Dean is not chosen now for the position with all the public comments asking for him...it will definetly appear that Rahm is influencing Obama and getting his way.

We all thought Cheney was guiding Bush with his choices.

Now it looks like Rahm E. is doing the same?  Am I the only cynical in this area?

by lja 2009-02-04 05:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Daschle's Ride

Yes.

by JDF 2009-02-04 06:16AM | 0 recs

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