3:15 p.m. ET: Tom Daschle's decision to withdraw as President Obama's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary has generated a ton of media attention and the first full-fledged PR crisis of this administration. But what it hasn't generated is a lot of debate, and that could help explain why Daschle threw in the towel.
Scan the Interwebs in these hours after Daschle's withdrawal, and you'll find few defenders of the former Senate Majority Leader. Even those who praised Daschle as a good man and a worthy nominee are, mostly, not suggesting he should have stayed and fought. Nor are they chastising Obama for accepting (or prompting?) Daschle's withdrawal.
Over at Daily Kos, a preeminent liberal blog, Trapper John writes a scathing "memo" from Obama to potential job-seekers asking them to "please pay your taxes." And, the memo adds, "If you're honestly deluded enough to believe that daily use of a goddamn Town Car and a goddamn chauffeur is a 'gift,' you're probably too divorced from everyday reality to work for the people of the United States."
Ezra Klein of the similarly liberal American Prospect blogs that Daschle's withdrawal is "good for the cause of ethics in government" even if it might set health care reform back a ways. At The New Republic, Noam Scheiber praises Obama for his "completely unsentimental decision" -- realizing that Daschle's growing political baggage outweighed whatever personal loyalty Obama might feel toward him.
And conservatives, not surprisingly, think it was the right call. "A necessary move for Obama: He couldn't have had two high-profile tax scofflaws in his cabinet," writes National Review editor Rich Lowry.
Add it all up, and Daschle had a chorus calling for him to step down and just about no one making the counterargument. Obama's foes wanted Daschle gone, but many administration supporters did too. To survive in any position of power in Washington, you always need a constituency advocating on your behalf. By this morning, Daschle no longer did.
8 a.m. ET: We're now two weeks into the Obama administration, and two major storylines of his first days -- one policy, one political -- have begun to converge.
Story one: President Obama is in the midst of selling his economic stimulus package to reluctant Republicans, and will follow that by unveiling a new financial rescue plan to a public already tired of bailouts. Story two: Obama is building an unprecedented parallel campaign organization with 13 million email addresses and the power to mount a massive external lobbying offensive.
It is David Plouffe, subject of a new Esquire profile, who assembled and controls the email list, which the magazine calls, disturbingly, "a fulsome pulsing beast" that can be unleashed rapidly. But to what end? The back-to-back fights over the stimulus and the bailout provide the perfect opportunity for Obama and Plouffe to deploy the organization for the first time.
The bank rescue plan, in particular, calls out for a strong sales effort. Even Obama's biggest supporters will need some convincing, as the first bailout has turned out to be unpopular for both liberals and conservatives. Obama needs to explain to the public why this isn't a boondoggle, while also reassuring financial markets.
On the stimulus, Obama will do a round of network television interviews today to sell his vision of the measure, making use of his invaluable presidential platform. But while every president -- particularly when still in the honeymoon period -- can command airtime, not every president has the outside political infrastructure Obama has built. Not every president has the ability to pressure members of Congress from both above and below, from across Pennsylvania Avenue and from their own districts. As the Esquire story notes, "No president has ever entered office with this much information."
Obama may now wish he had more information about Tom Daschle. The South Dakotan apologized to his former colleagues yesterday for his tax mistakes, but the trouble for the HHS nominee doesn't seem to be over. Daschle reportedly pushed Leo Hindery -- the friend who generously gave him that car and driver -- for an Obama administration job. And the New York Times editorial board, which probably has a lot more sway with 44's team than it did with 43, is out today calling for Daschle to withdraw his name.
And remember Al Franken? He may be good enough and smart enough, but he's still a ways away from actually becoming a senator. Republicans have vowed to block him from being seated in the chamber, and Harry Reid may also be wary after the way the Roland Burris saga unfolded. If Reid and Franken want to convince Republicans to let the Minnesotan join the Senate, maybe they could borrow Obama's e-mail list.
February 3, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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