Tom Daschle has withdrawn his nomination for health and human services secretary, after fielding mounting criticism over his failure to pay more than $130,000 in taxes.
President Obama stood by Daschle Monday, telling reporters that he “absolutely” supports the former South Dakota senator. But the president accepted Daschle’s withdrawal Tuesday morning.
It was unclear whether Daschle, with his deep network of ties in the Senate stemming in part from his time as majority leader, would have been able to weather the criticism in confirmation.
Senators were reluctant to state publicly any opposition to Daschle’s nomination in recent days. But that started to crack Tuesday morning, as Republican Sen. Jim DeMint called for Obama to withdraw the nomination — becoming the first senator to say that the former majority leader’s tax problems are disqualifying.
DeMint told FOX News that Daschle’s failure to pay $134,000 in federal taxes reflects a “problem with integrity” that the government cannot afford to tolerate. DeMint spoke out against Daschle as a number of prominent newspapers, including The New York Times, called for the South Dakota Democrat to drop his bid.
Update: The coverage of the Daschle withdrawal is interesting. I decided to check it out on CNN to see how they would report it. I expected them to downplay it, but even I was surprised at how far they bent over to help the fumbling new administration. Dana Bash said there was a big “perception problem” with Daschle’s tax situation. Kyra Phillips asked John King if this was not something that would be a problem with other nominees since there are a lot of politicians in Washington that run a fine line between government and industry. John King said Daschle was undermining the credibility Obama had with the people who voted for him believing he would bring change and do things differently. Kyra asked King, “Will Barack Obama be able to find the right people with the right kind of experience and the right background that are just ethically clear.” King responded that Obama was a victim of his own high standards. The focus of the discussion was how hard it is to find anyone who doesn’t have some type of problem or conflict since anyone experienced enough would have potential problems. The focus was not on the bumbling start to the Obama administration. It was not on how hard it is to find an ethical Democrat. It was not on what an embarrassment the multiple problem nominees is for the Obama administration. The focus was on how hard it is to find good people to serve and on how high Obama has set his standards. I wonder what the coverage would have looked like if the same thing had happened with George Bush’s nominees.
Update II: Oops.