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White House Cheat Sheet: Daschle, Damaged

President Obama has Tom Daschle's back as tax revelations swirl around the Health and Human Services nominee. (AP Photo by Charles Dharapak)

In politics as in life, context is everything.

This is especially true when seeking to divine whether or not former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle, President Obama's nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department, will survive revelations about $140,000 in unpaid back taxes and interest.

The first part of context it's important to understand when considering Daschle's future is that he was not only a member of the Senate for nearly two decades (1986-2004) but he also served in a leadership role in the chamber. The Senate is among the clubbiest institutions in the world -- with its members generally looking out for one another almost to a fault.

It's why Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) released a statement Saturday expressing unequivocal support for Daschle. "It is important to put his experience to work during a critical time when our nation's healthcare system desperately needs an overhaul," said Kerry. "I have confidence in his leadership ability."

Several Democratic sources told the Fix over the past 24 hours that if Daschle had not been a longstanding member of the world's most exclusive club, his nomination would almost certainly be, in the words of one operative, "dead on arrival."

The second part of context is that a close personal relationship exists between Obama and Daschle. Daschle was an early supporter of Obama's presidential candidacy and a number Daschle's top aides from his days in the Senate -- Obama senior adviser Pete Rouse, White House deputy communications director Dan Pfeiffer, Democratic National Committee executive director Jen O'Malley Dillon among many others -- have senior roles in the Obama administration.

Given that relationship, it's not surprising that Obama expressed his continued confidence in Daschle during a brief photo op yesterday, support that was echoed later in the day by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

"No one in this building or administration is insensitive to the report that was given this weekend about Senator Daschle," said Gibbs before adding that it was important to compare one "serious mistake" by the South Dakota Senator to a "three decade career in public service."

Does that mean Daschle's confirmation is assured? Far from it.

The optics of having not paid for a car and driver service are VERY bad for Daschle -- and, by extension, Obama. Most Americans don't have a dedicated car and driver to cart them around, and they expect those that do to pay the required taxes for it.

"There's a sinking-in realization that this is a message bonanza for Republicans because they've got Obama caught in an emerging pattern and a story that has the whiff of the D.C. insider politics Obama campaigned against because, well, Daschle cashed in on the D.C. insider politics Obama campaigned against," said one senior Democratic Senate aide.

And, no matter the good will for Daschle among his former Senate colleagues (and there is, without question, a huge amount of it), all politicians are survivors at their core and if supporting Daschle looks like a no-win proposition for them then you will them flee from him.

Barring some other major revelation, however, it's likely Daschle hangs on. Barely.

Sked Stuff: It's a busy day at the White House with New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg (R) set to be introduced as the new Commerce Secretary designate, and President Obama scheduled to sit down with all three network news anchors in the afternoon as part of his attempt to sell the American public (not to mention the Senate) on his economic stimulus package. Obama's ability to command airtime on all three networks newscasts is what makes the presidency an incomparable platform in politics. The power of the bully pulpit can not be matched (or anything close to it) by any other politician in the country. When the president speaks, the media listens.

News Nugget: The White House will ramp up pressure on undecided senators today by releasing a letter signed by 19 governors expressing their support for President Obama's economic stimulus plan. The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Fix, is signed by 15 Democratic governors as well as GOP Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.), Charlie Crist (Fla.), Jodi Rell (Conn.) and Jim Douglas (Vt.), the latter expressing his support for the legislation during a visit to the White House Monday. "As stewards of the economies of our respective states and regions, we urge the Congress to reach prompt resolution of all outstanding differences and you to sign the bill when it reaches your desk," the governors wrote in the letter to Obama. It's a clear sign from the White House that those closest to the economic struggles in the states believe the stimulus package is absolutely necessary despite the objections offered by some Republicans at the federal level.

Crist Considers: As we noted yesterday, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is weighing a run for the open Florida Senate seat in 2010 but won't likely make a decision until after the state's legislative session ends in early May. Why? Crist has an eye on being president (or at least running for the office) in 2012 and may see the Senate as a higher profile perch from which to fight the Obama agenda. As long as Crist is weighing a bid, the Republican field, which includes Reps. Vern Buchanan and Connie Mack IV as well as former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, is in a state of suspended animation. One thing to watch: if Crist does go for the Senate, what does Rep. Adam Putnam (R), the newly announced candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, do?

Schultz to DSCC: Eric Schultz, deputy campaign manager for Al Franken's 2008 campaign, is returning to Washington as the communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Schultz joined Franken's team last summer when the entertainer appeared dead in the water and led the communications operation that has helped Franken take a 225-vote lead over Sen. Norm Coleman -- with an election contest pending. Prior to his post in Minnesota, Schultz served as national spokesman for former Sen. John Edwards's (N.C) 2008 presidential campaign and also did a stint as spokesman for New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. Schultz takes over for Matt Miller who is leading the communications operation at the Justice Department.

RNC Transition Head Named: Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party will chair the transition at the Republican National Committee for newly elected chairman Michael Steele. Priebus was an early and active Steele supporter in his (somewhat) unexpected victory last Friday at the RNC Winter Meeting.

Twittering Pols: Twitter has become almost de rigeur for politicians these days -- who could forget the House Republicans tweeting about their meeting with President Obama last week? The Fix is always on the look out for the best of the best when it comes to politicians' twitters and thanks to Air America's Ana Marie Cox we came across the feed of Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) this week. From her tweets during the Super Bowl we found out McCaskill's feelings toward Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell ("yuk," she wrote), that she was rooting for the Steelers and that she hates Super Bowl blowouts (who doesn't?). Are there other nominees out there for best politician twitter? Offer them in the comments section below or email the Fix at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

Click It!: David Plouffe, like Russia, is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. (With apologies to Winston Churchill.) Understanding the understated manager of Obama's 2008 campaign is a life's work -- sort of like Kremlinology. As a devoted Plouffe-ologist, we read Esquire's new profile of him with more than a little interest. The piece is worth it for the picture of Plouffe, a ping-pong table and a keg in college but there's lots more here too: Plouffe cleaned chimneys during his summers off from the University of Delaware, he got his start in elected politics working for Sam Beard's unsuccessful run for Senate from the First State in 1988 (Beard lost the Democratic primary to Lt. Gov. S.B. Woo who went on to lose to GOP Sen. Bill Roth), and he compares defeating Hillary Clinton and John McCain to beating the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Need a random Plouffe fact you won't find in the Esquire piece? He was recently featured -- along with McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt -- in Delaware's alumni magazine. Neither man graced the cover though. That was reserved for Vice President Joe Biden. (Thanks, as always, to the Post's Paul Kane for his treasure trove of Plouffe anecdotes.)

Love is in the Air: Anne Kornblut, one of the Fix's White House colleagues, and Jon Cohen, the Post's polling director, are engaged! The ask -- and acceptance -- happened Friday night, according to well-placed sources.

Never Turn Down a Free Meal: Denny's is offering free Grand Slam breakfasts today between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. And, no, we are not kidding. We wouldn't kid about free breakfast.

Say What?: "We are all on the same team and it is America's team." -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offering support for the Dallas Cowboys, er, getting sworn-in as the nation's top diplomat.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 3, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cheat Sheet Share This:  E-Mail | Technorati | Del.icio.us | Digg | Stumble Previous: Florida Gov. Crist Considers Senate Race
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Welcome my son, welcome to the Chicago machine.
Where have you been? its alright we know where youve been.
Youve been in Chicago, filling in time, provided with toys and
scouting for good ole Clinton boys.
You bought an election to punish all,
And you liked the Harvard school, and you know you're nobodys fool,
So welcome to the Chicago machine.

Welcome my son, welcome to the Chicago machine.
What did you dream? its alright you had the audacity to dream,
You dreamed of a big star, you play a mean b-ball,
You ate in the steak bar. You love to drink the V-martini that's all
So welcome to the Chicago machine.

Posted by: leapin | February 3, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Karma for those high profile endorsements Obama needed to repay: Richardson, Kennedys (Ted & Caroline), Kerry, Dean, now Daschle?
Reputations tarnished and/or job choices thwarted.
Schadenfreude is so satisfying.

Posted by: rdklingus | February 3, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Why worry about Daschle? Eric Holder, our new Attorney General is in a far more powerful position and who is he, really?

See the Mother Jones article from 1/14/09 titled, Why Eric Holder Represents What's Wrong with Washington. http://www.motherjones.com/mojoblog/archives/2009/01/11747_eric_holder_attorney_general_washington_sellout.html

1) Holder represented scum like Purdue Pharma whose drug OxyContin was killing people and harming thousands through addiction and medical complications. He negotiated a small settlement with West Virginia that allowed Purdue Pharma to keep selling OxyContin and to continue killing and harming patients to make huge profits.

2) He represented other businesses involved in immoral if not criminal activities. He represented Merck Pharmaceuticals and negotiated a settlement that allowed them to pay far less in fines than they made in overbilling the government’s Medicaid program.

3) As deputy attorney general he forced through the pardons for the FALN terrorists and Marc Rich. He intimidated Justice Department employees into dropping their opposition to the FALN and Rich pardons.

Holder does not now and never has put the American people above the almighty dollar. How many pharmaceutical companies will never be investigated by a Holder Justice Department?

Holder almost single-handedly forced the release of the FALN terrorists who killed six Americans and injured hundreds of others while exploding 130 bombs in America. Next on the Holder agenda. Freeing the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Several of the FALN terrorists released went right back to terrorism. Guess what the Al Qaeda terrorists are going to do?

Posted by: BothSides | February 3, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse




Team Obama must immediately work with GOP defenders of the Constitution to dismantle the nationwide extrajudicial punishment network...

...authoritarian bureaucrats and security/intel officers and their nationwide network of citizen vigilantes fronted by federally-funded volunteer programs.

This nationwide, Gestapo-like "multi-agency action" operation has made a mockery of the judicial system for the past eight years and has claimed many victims from all strata of society.

Crimes against humanity are being committed across the nation via the use of so-called "directed energy (radiation) weapons" which the Bush D.O.J. recently confirmed are being widely deployed to police forces nationwide.

These RADIATION weapons emit silent, pulsed bursts of various forms of radiation -- and are degrading and damaging the health of those on the receiving end as well as their operators.

This weaponry has NO PLACE in civilized society -- much less in the hands of security personnel who interact with the public. It should be BANNED -- and NOT deployed to local law enforcement with the aid, approval and funding of D.O.J.

The widespread deployment of this weaponry virtually assures its misuse. Imagine if rogue actors tried to use its silent, deadly force to induce illness or to disable our political leaders.

Perhaps they already have.

Victims of this extrajudicial punishment network also see their finances and livelihoods expropriated and destroyed by coordinated "multi-agency action" "programs of personal destruction" that deny them due process of law while degrading their lives and destroying their families.

Obama administration officials must address these abuses IMMEDIATELY, before these affronts to the Constitution destroy more American families -- and subvert the Obama presidency.

The bureaucrats and officers behind these "programs of personal destruction" remain entrenched. They cannot be co-opted or rehabilitated. They have threatened and harassed those who demand that they take down their unconstitutional programs.

These programs surely have contributed the nation's economic crisis -- and by extension, the world's.

These betrayers of the Constitution MUST be removed from power and brought to justice.


OR (if links are corrupted):


Posted by: scrivener50 | February 3, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Su-weet! Daschle dodges $140,000 in income taxes and penalties, doesn't pay his Medicare taxes, claims more charitable deductions than he made, looks really dirty for some of his "advisor fees" and payments from health ins. companies, but the "democrats" don't see any problems with any of that, nothing to disqualify him for the Health and Human Services job. Oops, I forgot, they're democrats, no ethics, morality, honesty, or honor to get in their way! Daschle probably doesn't have a clue why there is any uproar about it! Don't expect Sharpton or Geithner think he did anything wrong! The Messiah doesn't see any problem! There's your "Change", allright! The jackals are breaking into the henhouse! (Ya think maybe Geithner will go after him for tax evasion?)

Posted by: lightnin001 | February 3, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Daschle not only underpaid taxes he committed fraud. We must not forget the lifetime income and health insurance he and his family receives for his past term in Washington, DC.
Where are the changes we were promised.

Posted by: ConcernedNewYorker | February 3, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I gave my $2300 to defeat the Clintons and $2300 more to defeat McSame/Palin. Apparantly,Obama lied to me and millions of others.

We bought this election for him so that we did not have to see what he is now doing. He will pay us back for this. He needs us a lot more than he needs Tom Daschle. I'd be glad to work to destroy him next.

We need honest government more than any other quality.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 3, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday you said that Obama's choice of a NH senator showed he was looking for the best people for his cabinet. How is it that only government seems to have the "best people" for the job? I am an Obama supporter but am getting a bit antsy about all the "good old boys (and girls)" he has turned to for his appointments. Where are the outside Washington voices?
Daschle is a good example of the problems of Washington. He has a good career in the Senate and then cashes in on it with a couple million a year to be a lobbyist (oh he got around being formally so, but "advising" health care industry is just another lobbying role). Then we are to believe he just happened to think of his tax liability for an unbelievable 3 year limo service free of charge. And even I know you can't take off your taxes for giving money to an individual--as he did. What kind of accountant does he have--a tax dodging one?
The Senate club has entered the White House--and that is no change.

Posted by: fulrich | February 3, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

So, are we all back to "My party, right or wrong...", just two weeks into the new administration?

I voted for George W. Bush in 2000, and until the fall of 2003, I supported him. Finally, I came to the conclusion that he was dishonest, contemptuous of the Constitution, and incompetent. As the evidence of that piled up, I could not understand how fellow Republicans of conscience could continue to support him. But one of the reasons they gave was the blind and unquestioning support of Democrats for their leadership, regardless of obvious misconduct. I had to concede their point, but I also believed that fixing that problem had to start with the home team.

I still have great hopes that the Obama Presidency will succeed. But even though I supported and campaigned for him, that support was conditional and selective. It does not include supporting a consummate Washington insider, cashing in on his "three decades of public service" to take down millions in 'consulting fees', and flouting tax laws that he himself had a hand in passing.

Unless all voters begin to think critically about our elected leaders, and express disapproval when they violate their word or their espoused principles, our government will remain corrupt, and the future of this country will continue to deteriorate.

I know many Democrats recognize the damage that will be done if Daschle is confirmed. It will re-polarize the health-care debate, and further undermine the credibility of the President. (Although most of that damage is, frankly, irreparable at this point.) I urge you to call your Senators and send them that message. You will be doing President Obama a favor.

Posted by: thomas777 | February 3, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Like I said you Republicans are really people who should had just stayed with your party. HE WILL WIN RE-ELECTION...May not be with such a largy margin again!
But I tell you what WE THE DEMOCRATS WILL VOTE FOR HIM AGAIN - LIKE YOU REPUBLICANS VOTED FOR THAT MAN WHO HAD 4000 TROOPS KILLED FOR A SENSELESS WAR, LET A CITY DROWN, GAVE TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH...And as him term was windind down you start showing that you didn't support him. Just like the media you were cowards. Call your congressman - I already called mines and told him Dashle must be confirm.

Posted by: danson1 | February 3, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

If Obama decides that he needs to cut the strings on Daschle, I suspect he will do it behind the scenes. He'll either ask Daschle to drop out or he'll urge senators not to vote for him.

Don't be surprised if a deadbeat skeleton is discovered in Judd Gregg's closet, too. If so, Obama can demonstrate that both Democratic AND Republican politicians don't pay their taxes. That's called "bipartisanship".

Posted by: dognabbit | February 3, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

This pick will forever bar Obama from membership in the Cosmos Club.

Posted by: FromtheRaft | February 3, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

So tell me Chris Cilliza are you going to be on the blowhard show? oops I mean Hardball. Helping Mr. Spit-mouth talk about how this is hurting Obama? You guys were off when it came to the election and you are off now!!!

Posted by: danson1 | February 3, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I am a Republican who voted for Obama. I will be calling our Senior Senator, Ron Wyden's office this morning to ask that he vote against confirming Daschle.

As for President Obama, I never expected to agree with him on every issue or policy decision. On matters of principle, I am sorry to say I no longer trust that he is who he said he was. Tom Daschle epitomizes the corruption that has brought this country to the disaster we now face. He should be facing income tax evasion charges, not confirmation for a cabinet post. Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, another Obama adviser and until recently, a major player at Citigroup, should be under investigation for his role in this global ponzi scheme which threatens the national security and future of this nation.

If any think I'm an Obama-hater, I'll just reference the six months I spent campaigning for Obama, hours every day on-line and in person to fellow Republicans. We needed a President with the courage of his convictions. I think now know there will be no convictions.

Posted by: thomas777 | February 3, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Oh boy you guys are killing me with this Dashle thing. If you don't support Dashle so freakin what!!
I bet you didn't write so many darn article and post when Bush appointed at least 5 of his controversial cabinet post member. I do think this is people who really didn't vote for Obama. Change is coming.
The rest of you blow it out you ear, probably a handful of Republicans that voted for Obama because they were afraid of McCain Palin.

Posted by: danson1 | February 3, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Obama is a democrat, yes, and a progressive. Call him a liberal if you want. But most of all he is a pragmatist. He wants to actually fix things in this country, not just get in power in order to trade favors for his friends.

As a pragmatist, he knows that the people with the ability to get things done in Washington are those who know the ropes, who have networks, who have influence. So don't look at who he hires, look at what he directs them to do.

I voted for Obama because I thought he could best lead the country. I voted for the Republican for sheriff in my county because he was capable, and the Democrat was a doofus.

I know it's hard after the last 16 years, but let's stop reflexively thinking that the primary qualification for a person is the R or D after their name.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | February 3, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Sure Tom Daschle wil survive the scandal but what about the President? As the NYTimes suggests today Mr.Daschle should withdraw his name - if he has any decency at all. This President won many votes, including mine by promising to bring " change " to Washington and doing away with the old ways of handling things. His conduct in standing by his tainted Treasury Secretary and now Daschle show that the old ways will prevail and if you have the right friends in high places, " anything goes. " Daschle betrayed Obama by not revealing his tax situation before he was chosen to serve in the cabinet and the President owes him nothing - except a boot in the bum. Regrettably Obama is willing to stain his own record very early in his Presidency. These things are cumulative and he cannot stand too many more before his new supporters give up on him for betraying their confidence.

Posted by: earlmchu | February 3, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

eldoil, I think he should have withdrawn already.

The NYT ran a story to the effect that Daschle did not reveal that he was aware of his taxable car-and-driver problem to the BHO team until after he was offered the nomination, according to BHO staffers.

One could take that story to indicate the Prez was going to dump Daschle, but because he did not do so, on must take it as evidence of just how avid Daschle is for this particular job.

Unfortunately, his enthusiasm was drowned in bad judgment and the terrible appearance of being a scofflaw. I, too, think he will not withdraw.

The Prez had the opportunity to split the difference: "accepting Daschle's withdrawal" while keeping him as an advisor. That would have been a better course than fully backing Daschle for a cabinet post.

As so many have said, and Chris has well stated, this IS politics-as-usual, coming from the bearer of the mantle of change.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 3, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

I am so tired of the hot wind blowing out of Washington. When we'll we get some political leaders capable of a moral, honest stand on anything. Not only do they lie, cheat, and steal, but the rest of the group defends them and backs them up..

"Let them eat cake" is the Washington mantra..

Posted by: Doc358 | February 3, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Dis mus be smo dat change we be herin bout befo de lection.

De only change I be see is Bomb don't have de tegrity to remuv dis scumbag.

Posted by: Bcamp55 | February 3, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

So are we to believe:
1) that a former senator (who has worked on tax legistlation repeatedly) had no idea that a car and driver might be considered a taxable benefit;
2) that Daschle prepares his own taxes and simply "forgot" to add it ??
The only reason this hasn't been thrown out already is that it's so commonplace among Daschle and his ilk (yes, BOTH parties).

Posted by: gspkr | February 3, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Let's be fair. Mr. Daschle is an astute individual. He obviously learned from the Detroit CEO's since he arrived and departed by cab rather than a limo. On a serious note, is anyone going to pin him down on his "eureka moment" last June when he started the correction of this situation? Once again, let's note he has been writing or voting on our tax laws for 20 years just like other representatives, one of whom, for instance, didn't know rental income from his condo was taxable (whatever happened there/). On the misreported $83 thousand... ask yourself, would you not have figured it out? I don't think Mr. Daschle is in Warren Buffet's or Bill Gates's league (yet) hwere such a oversight might be accepted.

Posted by: thinking1962 | February 3, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Someone should ask 'Jill' if 'Amtrak Joe' had first dibs on HHS!!

Posted by: newbeeboy | February 3, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

obama is showing his contempt for taxpayers -- he wants to refund taxes to folks who don't pay taxes -- he names a tax evader to collect our taxes -- he names another tax evader to boost the cost of health care, said cost to be borne by taxpayers -- obama thinks politicians & federal bureaucrats have the right to rub taxpayers' noses in fertilizer

Posted by: herbert-de-turbot | February 3, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

If Daschle had any class, he would remove himself as an embarrassment to the new administration. Alas, this never occurs.

Posted by: eldoil | February 3, 2009 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Daschle is a remnant of a bygone era in Washington - lie, cheat, steal, apologize.

Posted by: hamishdad | February 3, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Daschle should be dead in the water. I voted for Obama but I'm bothered by the allegations surrounding Daschle. It doesn't matter if Daschle has built up support in the Senate.... These allegations smack of sleaze and entitlement and he should be dropped....

Posted by: RickJ | February 3, 2009 7:10 AM | Report abuse

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