05 February 2009


By Andy Weddington
Friday, 06 February 2009

No sooner had an eloquently barbed comment about the little rascal—no known link to Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Darla and the rest of ‘Our Gang’—Tom Daschle been polished, he “voluntarily” withdrew as President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Most of cynical America believed, despite the controversy over his tax delinquency problem, he’d be confirmed—unless, more troublesome matters surfaced. They did—more in a moment. The Senate’s confirmation of a tax evader to a critical Cabinet position less than two weeks ago notified America tax evasion is not a disqualifier for public service—especially at the top level—and, ironically, for overseeing the Internal Revenue Service. Tax dodgers take heart and note; dust off those resumes. In fact, nominees falling by the wayside starting with Governor Bill Richardson (D, NM) weeks before Inauguration Day, and this week Nancy Killefer and Daschle, made it appear confirmed tax evasion or seedy business dealings or both was a vetting process prerequisite for nomination consideration. It’s disappointing. Disappointing, that is, to not post the original commentary. But satisfying the scamp is gone; finally—at least for a while. So, today a different perspective than was planned.

Daschle’s demise began with his self-reported delinquency not claiming income or paying taxes on a private limo and driver—believed “gifted” to him by a Beltway fat cat friend. An honest, innocent mistake or so we were to believe—as once entitled to this perk, on our dime, while in the Senate why not for life; so reasoned our little rascal. And the paltry confession, mind you, offered by an educated man who served as a commissioned officer in the U. S. Air Force and racked up more than a quarter century of service in the House and Senate that included stints on the Finance and Ethics committees. He knew better and he knows it. We know it. He knows we know it. End of discussion. His nomination never should have been. His “mistake”—remedied by admission and restitution only after learning he’d be nominated for the Cabinet position—soon proved to be nothing more than a wispy public smoke screen intended to veil sundry other financial problems sniffed out by restless blood hounds—media and political foes. The specifics are now well-publicized so no need to recap them in detail here but included millions in “lobbying” salary, tens of thousands in speaking and advising fees, private jet trips, and more made for a heavily-stained trail a half-blind, deaf hound with no sense of smell could clumsily follow. Clearly, Daschle’s questionable financial dealings and tax liabilities only qualified him for nomination to one post—Secretary of the Treasury. What was President Obama thinking? Did he forget the Treasury post was filled last week by another fully qualified, well-connected tax evader, Timothy Geithner? Too bad for Daschle the Treasury is not Co-Chair. Of course anything is possible. The President has already made staff exceptions to his new ethics policies; perhaps this one is not outside the realm of possibility. Two tax cheats, like two heads, must be better than one. Ridiculous? Yes. But who knows.

The Daschle bomb became more problematic by the day. And with each day it was clear the one person who must immediately take an aggressive step forward to defuse it was not going to. President Obama’s reluctance to act decisively reinforced that he, as revealed while serving in the Senate and on the campaign trail, is not a decision-maker. By all appearances his personality fits an ‘indecision is the key to flexibility’ profile. Remember, during his brief tenure in the Senate he had an unremarkable record—voting “present” more than a hundred times. Tuesday President Obama did not step forward and accept full responsibility for his poor nomination until Daschle defused by recusing. That is not leadership much less presidential leadership. Not knowing when to admit a mistake and cut losses is problematic—for anyone. If unwilling to lead solving something as relatively simple as ending an obviously unsuitable Cabinet position nominee—which was solely his to do—what in the world will he do when faced with a genuine crisis? Americans have a right to know.

No doubt Daschle wanted the Cabinet position. After all he has some big implied favors to return to a fat cat, a law/lobbying outfit that paid him millions as a “lobbyist,” and to elements in the health care industry for tens of thousands, if not more, paid him as a ‘guest speaker and advisor.’ But a Cabinet seat is not to be. Oh well, hate it when that happens. For those that were counting on Daschle’s confirmation and return on good faith “loans,” it’s reasonable to believe there is Senate advocacy to their liking in the “Stimulus” bill? After all, he’s well-connected with many long-time friends still in office who speak the quid pro quo battle cry of Beltway politics, lobbying, and business—“Ubi est mea?” or “Where’s mine?” Let’s just consider it taking care of one of their own and one of the unnoticed supporting side-shows, next to the Chinese acrobats, still in progress garnering little, if any, attention.

Perhaps a fool and idiot but no dummy even Daschle had to finally conclude he was expendable. Of course an arm in torque counter to nature and wretched up behind your back raising heels off the ground—figuratively speaking—does wonders for clarity of thought and quick decision-making. The pressure on him, especially the arm, must have been unrelenting and still more coming from every direction—Senators, presidential advisors, and most likely but quietly, the President. No doubt a bitter situation and disappointment for Daschle who, by all indications of personal social behavior, believed he entitled to privilege, royal treatment, and exempt from law. A rascal to be sure but not the first and far from the last.

The behind-the-scenes circus surrounding the Daschle retreat must have made for big fun to those afforded ringside, bleacher, under the tent flap, and even nose-bleed seats—far bigger fun than any three-ring circus Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey could have possibly hoped to provide. The sundry simultaneously active Daschle circus rings—the President publicly supporting him while privately knowing he must go away and fast—but how; the President’s inner-circle advisors feuding over what to do to save their man’s tarnishing image; a few Senators meeting with Daschle behind closed doors with others “conferencing” and many fence-sitting hoping this will go away one way or another—after all, they have a “Stimulus” pig to fatten in their best interest—not ours; lobbyists working Senators and who knows whom else; deals being proffered, negotiated, turned down; rumors, gossip, polite threats; and more surely made for more head-swiveling amusement than the press could possibly cover. Just like the real circus. Though undeniably entertaining—here and abroad—it’s not the least bit funny even with a full complement of goofy clowns—most sporting the title Congressman or Senator—working the crowd and running amok looking for either shelter or a get-away-car, or playfully clamoring for camera and mike time. Were it not for lack of face paint, whimsical costumes, and gag props it would have been impossible to tell them apart from their Clown College compadres. As for the vendors, enterprising barkers surely made a small fortune—all declarable and taxable income, of course—hawking popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs, cold beer, glow-sticks, and whoopee cushions to giggling spectators. Good for them. “I Did TOM BOMB” T-shirts along with assorted earth-friendly memorabilia marking the gala expected next week—check the web.

But unlike the real circus orchestrated by the tails and top hat adorned, colorfully attired, confident, larger-than-life Ringmaster strutting around the arena, bellowing commands, cracking the whip, and mesmerizing the crowd, our Oval Office “Ringmaster” appeared a wide-eyed, mouth agape, and uncertain spectator fit only for understudy status—at best. Now that “he’s the man” we’re getting a much closer look at Barack Obama with the faithful learning what the rest of us knew—he’s human not omnipotent. Thus far he’s not filled the bill of strong, confident leader he expertly teleprompter’ed himself to be while traversing the country. His demeanor handling Daschle reflected a man who’s yet to come to grips with the fact he’s in charge, responsible, and has incredible executive influence and power to wield to get the job done. Though thought of as a gifted politician, he’s not yet presidential—in appearance, carriage, or statesmanship. An anxious America is watching. Our enemies are watching too, closely, and scheming—perhaps emboldened by his weak, mediocre performance to date. A test is coming—an adamant prediction offered months ago by Joe Biden—now sworn to office and sitting as Chief of Clowns. If nothing else, the first seventeen days of Obama in the White House has shown the campaign machine was far more impressive than his out-of-the-blocks stumbling Administration, and he’s a fallible novice—ever in primetime—facing a steep learning curve before a hopeful but nervous global audience. Fair or not, welcome to the presidency. Obama’s gig is only assured for another 1,443 days. Soon we’ll see what he learned, if anything, from the Daschle calamity and other missteps, and if he’s fit for “Ringmaster” duties leading America—truly the greatest show on earth—ever. That concludes this Friday’s performance, ladies and gentlemen—safe travels and good night.


Anonymous said...

Enjoy your commentaries Andy. Betty

Anonymous said...

Daschle showed arrogant disreguard for the law when he failed to report the driver services for tax purposes. Just another in a long line of the elite, liberal entitlement class. Now that is CHANGE you can believe in!

Kevin said...

Tough start; perhaps Jimmy Carter's second term.

1. Richardson- prior to election conflict of interest
2. Clinton- Confirmation hearings Conflict of interest funding
3. Holder- Pardon of Donees (Marc Rich)
4. Geitner- Nanny gate / Failure to pay income tax
5. Daschle- Failure to pay tax (previous four filled out the “comprehensive” review process)LOBBYIST
6. Lynn- Lobbyist and industry front man
7. Frank- $12MM to his pals bank
8. Killifer- Failure to pay tax
9. Solis- American Rights at Work (lobbyist) / tax liens 16 years
10. Panetta- Speakers fees for investment bank holding Intel contracts ($700K in 2008)
11. Gitenstein-Lobbyist
12. Blair- Director Iridium, Tyco and others
13. Ogden, David- (dep atty general) former Playboy legal rep and sued to provide porn access in local libraries

This list appears to grow daily.