4:40 p.m. ET: Is it possible that the withdrawal of Tom Daschle's nomination will really just be a one-day story? This morning's headlines were dominated by Daschle, the accompanying withdrawal by Nancy Killefer and all manner of stories about how the bloom was off the rose, the honeymoon was over, the dream was dead and every appropriately negative metaphor was very much alive.
But there's enough going on in the real world that the Daschle incident, while always present in any future story about administration missteps or controversies, may already be behind us. President Obama garnered plenty of attention today to his call for caps on exectuive compensation at banks taking federal bailout funds, and the economic stimulus package remains an uncertain work in progress.
When the Daschle news broke yesterday, it seemed that Obama was unlucky to have a round of network television interviews already scheduled. A carefully orchestrated message plan went right out the window. But it turns out that the timing could actually have been fortuitous for the new president. He took responsibility and apologized for the nominee troubles, and did so well before the news cycle ended. As a result, Obama's apology was in the lede of many of today's stories and now reporters have nowhere else to go. So it's on to other subjects. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
8 a.m. ET: After a convincing election win, a much-praised transition and an inauguration that sent his supporters into the stratosphere, the biggest risk for President Obama was that he wouldn't live up to his own hype. More specifically, that he would be called a hypocrite.
Well, that's exactly what's happened. Allegations of hypocrisy -- of not matching his deeds to his words -- have been lobbed at Obama since day one of his presidency, bedeviling his efforts at bipartisanship on the stimulus package, nearly derailing Tim Geithner's bid for Treasury secretary and, yesterday, prompting Tom Daschle's withdrawal as nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.
"Did I screw up the situation? Absolutely," Obama acknowledged during a TV interview yesterday, adding that he understands there are "not two sets of rules" for people in public life. And Robert Gibbs made a similar point during his press briefing Tuesday: "You can't set a standard of responsibility but accept a different standard of who serves," Gibbs said.
But here's the key question: Did Obama "screw up" by not meeting his own goals, or by making them so lofty in the first place?
For all of Obama's contrition, Geithner is still Treasury secretary. And William Lynn is still the president's pick for deputy Defense secretary, even though he seems to violate the administration's strict policy on bringing in lobbyists. (There may not be "two sets of rules," but there are "waivers." Oh.) Was it inevitable that Obama wouldn't be able to follow his own hiring guidelines?
On the stimulus package, Obama made an ambitious effort to attract Republican votes in the House, and then he got ... zero. Was his mistake in not bending far enough toward the GOP's demands? Or was it that he never should have set such a public goal for a measure on which he doesn't actually control the process? Congressional Democrats are actually in charge of writing the bill, and Republicans are in charge of deciding whether voting for the measure helps or hurts their own political fortunes.
Now Obama's hopes are running into a similar reality in the Senate, where Democrats do not have the votes yet to pass the stimulus package and Republican opposition remains strong. It now looks like it will be a challenge to get the measure to Obama's desk before the President's Day recess.
Frank as he was during his round of interviews Tuesday, Obama himself might not admit that his real errors may not have been missing his targets, but rather aiming too high in the first place.
February 4, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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