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The Third Time's Farce

Molière couldn’t have made this up. Today we learn that Hilda Solis, President Obama’s pick for labor secretary, has some tax issues of her own. Or, rather, her husband does -- an exculpatory detail that will go unnoticed by 95 percent of people hearing the story. Sam Sayyad, Solis’s husband, just yesterday settled a small tax lien on his business, an auto repair shop in Southern California. About the last thing the should-have-been drama-free White House wanted to hear today, after Obama made the rounds earlier this week apologizing to every anchor in sight for Tom Daschle. No one said irony in politics had to be subtle.

On the bright side, Solis will test the prediction Michael Kinsley made on this blog a couple of days ago -- that the next guy -- or, in this case, gal -- in Obama’s nominee pool to admit to tax troubles will have an easier time in the Senate, since the public’s hunger for retribution has already been sated. You can already feel hints of regret in the Beltway that Daschle withdrew.

But Solis has something else going for her: Her husband’s now paid-off tax lien was only $6,400, tiny compared to the sums in the Geithner or Daschle episodes. And Sayyad is just a much more sympathetic tax-avoider: a blue-collar small business owner whose shop, Sam's Foreign and Domestic Auto Center, is only worth somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000. You can practically smell the apple pie. Sayyad, I presume, doesn’t just drive himself to work. He fixes other people’s junkers -- though perhaps not the one that Daschle wheeled out every time he had to run for something.

No, the one this really hurts is Obama. Where, one has to ask, has his crack vetting team been? What happened to his remarkable competence? I would blame the multiplying problems -- can we officially start calling it tax-gate? -- on the speed with which he rolled out his cabinet. Except that his team started quietly preparing for the transition during the summer.

Obama’s recent apology for Daschle was a bold move, and more than a little refreshing following the arrogant bluster of the Bush years. But it only works if Daschle is seen as the exception rather than the rule. Fairly or not -- and I am actually inclined to say not, given how minor Sayyad’s infraction was -- the Solis news nevertheless casts an ever-darker cloud over Obama’s cabinet selections -- and undercuts his claim to be a different kind of leader.

By Stephen Stromberg  | February 5, 2009; 5:28 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Next: Finding His Inner Eastwood


What I am about to sayis com;etely unfair. But, if the republicans start beating Solis up, they will face the wrath of many hispanics, people how they absolutely need to woo to their side. Politically, this is a gamble.

Posted by: sandnsmith | February 5, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

I meant completely. Dang computer!

Posted by: sandnsmith | February 5, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

A key early question in vetting a potential nominee has to be: "What are your most embarrassing secrets? Tell us now or we may all be embarrassed later in public."

I'm not sorry to see Daschle go. Health care is one issue I try to tune out--whatever you all come up with is fine with me. That, plus I'm a native S. Dakotan and can't stand looking at him since his deal on Missouri River mitigation (a local issue--see WRDA process, 1998-99).

For the longest time in this GOP state Daschle was the one person I'd vote for who'd win, maybe with some state commissioner or two. Like so many others around him he never started out as a limousine politician.

Has Daschle ever been very effectual?

We haven't heard much from Tom since Thune defeated him. Now we know why. The tax debt for a rich gift exposed the sumptious and presumptious life of a revolving-door politician, just the opposite of what Obama had promised.

Posted by: michaelmelius | February 6, 2009 2:11 AM | Report abuse

Solis from East LA is a LINO - Latina in name only. She hates trade agreements. She hates NAFTA. She hates CAFTA. She hates Colombia. What kind of message is Obama sending to Latin America? A loud and resounding F. U.

She has a perfect ADA rating and her father is a union organizer. She's just a pro-union cheap party hack without a brain of her own.

Posted by: alance | February 6, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

When is this silliness going to stop? I'm a tax accountant. taxes are difficult and complex. Most people get into some tax difficulties from time to time.

These are not gaffes. The vetting process works. The Obama people looked into the nominees, they found some areas of improvement, they fixed 'em. End of story. Let Obama hire whoever he wants. He should get the best people for the job.

Full disclosure: I voted against Obama. If I had lived in South Dakota, I would have voted againt Daschle too.

Posted by: ZZim | February 6, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

People are missing the point: all of these tax gaffes would seem to indicate that probably most people are inaccurate in their tax filings. intentionally or not? Does it matter? Why is the audit process not working?

Posted by: mefinamore | February 6, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

"What happened to his remarkable competence?"

what competence?

Posted by: newagent99 | February 6, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

All working Hispanics and Anglos do hate CAFTA, NAFTA and all other fake trade agreements. They exploit working people all over the world. Even in China. They were designed to provide cheap labor forever for off shored factories and steal farmland from poor locals. You heard about IBM 'forcing' all of its US people to relocate to India, Brazil, etc at local wage rates? -- George

Posted by: matkovitsg | February 7, 2009 2:04 AM | Report abuse


What IRS agent would audit Tom Daschle or Tim Geitner? Seems no win to me.

Posted by: MaryOK | February 7, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

A small business owner owes $6400 in taxes -- this is a big deal?

Posted by: minnesotamama | February 9, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

There was no arrogant bluster from President Bush. He knew ahead of time that to admit what the other side calls a "mistake" is to open the door to this sort of nit picking. Had he said Iraq was a mistake he would have had to say we could not win. But we could. Even when the opposition said this was a delusion. It was not.

Mindless critics are the best reason to avoid needless apologies. They will never be satisfied.

Posted by: gary4books | February 10, 2009 5:41 AM | Report abuse

Solis's husband (Sam Sayyad) did not have a problem with the IRS. The state and county placed liens on his property because there were disputed sales taxes and various fees.

I think the delay in Solis' hearing was just to let the furor die down over Daschle, and continue when cooler heads prevail.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | February 10, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

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