By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Bye, bye Daschle?

Prediction: Tom Daschle will not be confirmed as secretary of health and human services. There’s a sleaziness to Daschle’s tax problems that’s absent from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s, which just seem boneheaded.

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  1. Tunder

    If Obama sticks with Daschle, it will cost him some of that “political capital” that Bush used to crow about “spending.” Geitner’s might not have been sleazy, but it still reflected badly on him, and by extension, on Obama.Not surprisingly, arrogance is not party specific.

  2. Bill Baar

    I think it’s making five million in speaking fees the past two years giving lectures to insurance companies, health care facilities, real estate agents, energy firms, and other large corporations.Just the guy you want redesigning a chunk of the nation’s GDP.

  3. Mike F

    I realize the Washington vetting process involves a lot of nitpicking, but is there anyone down there who can pass up a sweetheart deal or a free lunch?In particular, though, I’ve never had a good feeling about Daschle, even when I agreed with him (sort of the opposite of how I feel when I hear Ted Kennedy advocating a policy I favor – and I’m certainly not saying Kennedy is a saint.)Not that this particular offense is an egregious one on Daschle’s part, but wouldn’t it be great to find someone to captain The President’s healthcare plan who has unquestionable integrity and the political savvy to swim his (or her) way through Congress’ ocean of sharks? A mythical creature I suppose.

  4. Bill Baar

    …offense is an egregious…Try ducking this kind of tax hit and see what happens to you if caught.

  5. Robert J. Rolison

    I now understand why tax reform is not a hot issue with Liberal Democrats –its because they don't pay taxes unless they are offered a cabinet position. Bob & Mona

  6. lkcape

    Clinton retreads? Lobbyists? Tax cheats? Change you can’t believe in.It will be interesting to watch media pitch softballs to these people.

  7. Ani

    To me, Geithner’s tax problems did not come across as boneheaded — I thought he took a gamble, taken, or thought to be taken, by many, and lost. Of course, it sounds (from a NY Times column — maybe Ron Lieber?) as if to comply with the household employee tax laws, you practically have to hire a company that specializes in such compliance. I agree that Daschle’s conflict of interest problems look more troubling than his tax problems. Maybe someone could explain the substantive difference between a strategic adviser and a lobbyist, and why it’s a difference that makes a difference in terms of potential bias in making decisions that are supposed to be in the public interest. I am also left wondering whether accountants need better regulation (or should I say accountability?) over their tax advice.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Ani: Agreed. The problem with Daschle’s tax problems — unlike Geitner’s — is that they are a subset of his conflicts of interest. He was always a hack. In this case, I think Obama got carried away with his desire for seasoned hands.

  9. Ani

    Dan, I don’t want you to get in trouble with Fish over possibly anglicizing Geithner’s name (I think it has an ‘h’).

  10. cavard

    Daschle is a failed Democratic majority leader of the Senate. In 00-02, he voted for the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. He supported the Patriot Act. He supported the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping and went on the softball Sunday news show “Meet the Press” to defend it. And Daschle also represented the interests of DLC Democrats, the GOP-lite wing of the Democratic Party. In general, he represented all the interests that run counter to what the Democrats are about. Daschle is a status-quo Dem looking out for business interests… not the poor, the powerless, or the middle class that the Democratic Party are supposed to represent in the first place. I’m not shedding a tear for Daschle. We need better Democrats. Not the same ones that have been failures and/or complicit during the Bush years.

  11. mike_b1

    In my former job, I had occasion to meet with Daschle, which is more a statement on the lack of population in South Dakota (and thus his accessibility) than on the importance of my former job. He’s not someone who would bowl you over intellectually.

  12. O'Rion

    If you believe Stephanopolous to be an accurate vote counter Daschle will survive, if only because his former senate colleagues will let him skate. But he should be gone and those closest to Obama –including Michelle– are probably set to move on anything that may have come up in the last few days. Since I think there probably will be one more straw, I’ll predict he’ll go by the end of the week.

  13. Don, American

    Daschle will be confirmed; sleaziness is a Democrat resume enhancement. Just ask Harry Reid.

  14. mike_b1

    OK, let’s hear it for Don, American! Watch The Office tonight or something?

  15. NewsHound

    He should not be nominated, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be. He has known of these tax circumstances since at least last June and maybe deliberately caused them, but was not even fair to the President about revealing it until after filing an amended return and being chosen. That is bad enough that he most certainly needs to take the same direction as Richardson. And regardless of how these tax situatons occured, if he is smart enough for a big job he has to be smart enough to prepare and file a tax return of his own activities. It is that simple.

  16. Dan Kennedy

    One big reason I think Daschle may not survive is that he reportedly was not forthcoming with the Obama vetters about his tax problems. Given that, the White House isn’t going to be all that broken up if he goes down.

  17. Peter Porcupine

    you practically have to hire a company that specializes in such compliance.Mr. Ani – they are called accounting firms. They help some of us with taxes as April rolls around.And don’t be too inside-the-box on this. Literally millions of self-employed people (disclosure – myself included) have to write out actual checks to pay taxes, as there is no comfortable nickel-and-diming for us on W-2’s. We are all WAAAY more upset with the new Treasury Sec., esp. since HE will be overseeing our lost-check, dog-ate-my-homework nemesis, the IRS. And we ALL know what would happen to us all if we missed five quarters, let alone five years.Conflict of interest? Meh. Corrupt tax evading? Says a lot about Obama to a lot of us.

  18. mike_b1

    *eye roll* Timothy Geithner made a mistake and paid the penalties. That’s how the system is supposed to work.Anything he did is a drop in a bucket compared to the Cheney Administration sending $600/$1200 checks all over the country and leaving it to future administrations to pay.

  19. NewsHound

    All of Dick Cheney’s wrongs have nothing to do with how much we should allow with Geithner. Geithner paid the taxes due within the statute of limitations, but for those where the statute had expired, the tax remained unpaid. That was wrong, and Dick Cheney is still wrong – forever, just like Geithner.

  20. Ani

    Has it ever been reported whether there are different patterns of mistakes on audited tax returns prepared by accountants and audited tax returns prepared by taxpayers themselves?

  21. mike_b1

    Newshound, I was responding to Mrs. Peter’s inane supposition that “millions of self-employed people [are] all WAAAY more upset with the new Treasury Sec.”Mrs. Peter would be hard pressed to find millions of people who even know there’s a new Treasury Secretary, let alone that he botched his taxes. And the amount at stake was obviously trivial, especially compared to the billions and billions handed out like air under the Cheney administration. It’s hypocrisy to the nth degree.

  22. NewsHound

    Mike – I agree with your point – Dick Cheney has fully earned the First Place Banner award. With all the entries, the new Treasury Secretary I doubt could even make honorable mention even though not lily white. That is sad indeed – – – that there are so many violations and violators of various degrees in our modern civilization.

  23. Ani

    And now I will get up on one of my favorite soapboxes and point out that we are inconsistent in the standards we expect people to meet, and this inconsistency (think of what happens when you’re inconsistent with setting rules with children) results in further problems. We, as a society, reward people who accumulate wealth, who push the envelope, who beat the system — we reward them with at least some kind of social approbation and attention and envy. And then when we put them under a spotlight and decide to judge them according to the rules of ethics we’d like to think we stand for, we apply a different standard and decry the very same behavior. It’s kind of like being stuck in a predictable soap opera with all its cycles of characters being by turns heroes and villains — we all know the roles and how it will play out.

  24. NewsHound

    Ani – you are so correct. Our citizenry shouldn’t have to put up with any of this abuse by anyone in higher positions in government or business, even if not as bad as some other examples.

  25. Peter Porcupine

    Ani – To me, putting a tax cheat in charge of the IRS is particularly egregious. That really OUGHT to be a consistant standard. Would you allow a person with a domestic violence conviction to head HHS?The fact the Mike has had to resort to his personal Voldemort, Vice President Cheney (booga-booga!), instead of discussing the question at hand is evidence that there is no mitigating circumstances for the new Sec. What WILL he do in 18 months? Blame Judd Gregg?Perhaps he pays no taxes; the appointment is an affront to those of us who do.

  26. NewsHound

    To qualify as an Enrolled Agent with the IRS, aside from passing a test, is to submit to a tax audit. A little silly to overlook someone who did not pay back taxes beyond the statute of limitations to be the Secretary of the Treasury. To many of us it does not meet an acceptable standard, nor do the activities of many others whether they be Republican, Democrat or historical.

  27. Ani

    I think the people who would make good cabinet secretaries and who have at least tried to pay their taxes accurately are less visible. I suspect that the people who rise to leadership positions, and are more visible, tend to be more aggressive, including on their taxes.

  28. NewsHound

    Ani, that is an interesting perspective and may be true.I agree, too, that quality leaders could tend to be more aggressive on their income taxes, but aggressive towards correctness with a devotion towards responsibility rather than misfeasance and self serving manipulation.

  29. NewsHound

    As I suspected, Daschle publicly would have been asked to stay, and privately asked to leave.

  30. Ani

    I think part of the problem is that we seem to want leaders with qualities that are correlated with problems in other aspects of their lives. So maybe part of the answer lies in the public changing its opinion of what makes a good leader. Maybe we’d get less adversarial folks that way, too. I’m also thinking of how our Anglo-American legal system is much more adversarial than the European civil law legal systems, and since many in our government are trained as lawyers, maybe we draw leaders from a pool of people who like adversarial situations and are skilled in what makes a person successful in adversarial situations. So, I think to fill leadership positions, we could draw from a pool of qualified people who are less aggressive, but I think we’d have to revamp the whole system, or something.

  31. Peter Porcupine

    Ani – what does ‘aggression’ have to do with honesty? With discharging your civic obligations? With behaving in a manner consistant with public responsibility?I’m agressive, and pay my taxes. Marzilli was gentle as a lamb in his demeanour, and…oh, well.

  32. NewsHound

    Ani – I think I see your point of view. Perhaps I’m too idealistic, but I would like our leaders to be sincere, hard working, intelligent, honest people who have a passion to help our society and government and its people without stealing tax money or embezzling stockholders’ money. Maybe this is not realistic, but this is my opinion.

  33. Ani

    PP: Exploiting loopholes in the tax code can be seen as being aggressive, and yes, at some point the degree of doing that shades into dishonesty, but my impression is that tax lawyers, etc. can make a lot of money coming up with creative interpretations of tax rules that comes just shy of what the IRS disallows.NewsHound: I don’t disagree at all, I just guess that such people don’t come to the attention of people filling high-level positions as easily as “go-getters” do, and I think “go-getting” shades more easily into questionable behavior.

  34. mike_b1

    Mrs Peter: I wish I paid no taxes. That would make me the same as more than 50% of US based corporations over the past decade.Not to mention companies like the GOP-run Tyco and the Cheney-run Halliburton, both of which moved their HQs out of the US to duck Uncle Sam. How American. How Republican.

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