I can't say I'm all broken up over the withdrawal of Tom Daschle as the nominee for secretary of health and human services. I confess when I heard he was the nominee, my first reaction was, "Eh. I'm not a fan." And that was before the tax issues ever came up in the press.
Of course I believe everyone should pay their taxes, since I bloody well have to. But anyone can make a mistake on those and end up paying later -- with, of course, penalties and interest.
Just ask Republican hero Joe the Plumber, who had some tax problems of his own, and look what happened to him. After his brief stint as a war correspondent in Gaza, he even got invited to Capitol Hill this past week to tell the Republicans why the stimulus package was a bad idea. Heck, some Republicans are still talking about running him for vice president on the Palin ticket!
My problem with Daschle was that he just wasn't the right guy for the job. One of the biggest jobs of the new HHS director is going to be guiding this country to some kind of real health insurance reform. And that's going to take somebody with more cojones and fewer ties to Big Medicine than Tom Daschle.
Once Daschle left Capitol Hill, he was far too cozy with the sort of health-care companies and other fatcats he was going to have to take on to get any real health-care reform in this country. Daschle has talked a good game about "single payer" health-care systems, but given his post-congressional career as a "policy adviser" for a law firm that represents big companies who'd have a lot to lose -- or to gain -- by how such a system would be set up, I find it hard to trust him.
I mean, come on. The guy takes hundreds of thousands in speaker's fees from health-care companies, and then is supposed to champion health-care reform for working people? Please.
While I do respect President Obama's desire for inclusiveness and bipartisanship, it sometimes seems as if he's overlooking the fact that some of the people he's trying to bring into the fold are part of the problem. That includes a guy like Daschle, who's so often in bed with the big health-care conglomerates that he keeps a toothbrush at their houses.
Elsewhere on the appointee front, I was rather surprised at the ease with which Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, was confirmed as attorney general.
The Republicans had made ominous noises about how they were going to give Holder a rough time. As we all know, there's nothing a wingnut loves more than a chance to dredge up Bill Clinton and blame him for all the trouble in the world, from Osama bin Laden to the current financial crisis to the heartbreak of psoriasis.
Since Holder didn't have the automatic pass that Hillary Clinton did by being a member of the Senate, it looked like he was going to be the senatorial whipping boy. And the pardon of "fugitive financier" Marc Rich was to be the instrument of flogging, since Holder had been the Deputy AG who vetted the pardon (badly, as it turns out).
But when push came to shove, Holder ate a little crow over the Rich pardon and was confirmed easily. All the Republican posturing and talking points about making Marc Rich a big issue turned out to be, in Shakespeare's words, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Maybe it's because not one but two special prosecutors a Republican Congress appointed to look into the matter failed to find any grounds to indict anyone. Maybe it's because e-mails uncovered during the course of the investigation revealed that the last donation to the Clinton Library (by Rich's ex-wife, not Rich) was provided a full year before Rich's lawyer suggested that she approach Clinton for a pardon, which made proving some kind of quid pro quo look a bit dicey.
Or maybe it was because of who that lawyer pushing for a Marc Rich pardon was: another right-wing hero named Lewis "Scooter" Libby, in his own pre-conviction, pre-sentence-commutation days.
Actually, I was sort of hoping they'd bring Rich up a lot more and that Holder would shoehorn Libby's name into at least every other sentence of his response. I'd even fantasized about a drinking game for the hearings, when every time you heard "Scooter" or "Libby" you'd have to take a drink. Alas, my dream of playing drinking games to C-Span will for the moment, remain in the realm of fantasy. (Yes, I really am that big of a nerd.)
So, Holder's in, Daschle's out. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.
Hey, I hear Howard Dean's between jobs right now.