Difficult to Govern

Tom Daschle yesterday withdrew his name from consideration for Secretary of Health and Human Services.  A little problem about failure to pay several thousand dollars in taxes.  He’s the second Obama nominee to have tax issues.  Timothy Geithner, who was eventually confirmed as Treasury Secretary, failed to pay $34,000 in self employment taxes.  Then there’s Bill  Richardson, who withdrew his name from consideration as Commerce Secretary because he has associates under investigation in New Mexico.

Now, bloggers across the land are drawing parallels between Timothy Geithner, Tom Daschle, and Steve Martin.

Let me take you back to Steve Martin’s standup in 1972:

You can be a millionaire and never pay taxes! You say, “Steve, how can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes?” First, get a million dollars. Now you say, “Steve, what do I say to the taxman when he comes to my door and says, ‘You have never paid taxes?’” Two simple words! Two simple words in the English language: I forgot!

How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don’t say: I forgot? Let’s say you’re on trial for armed robbery. You say to the judge, “I forgot armed robbery was illegal.” Let’s suppose he says back to you, “You have committed a foul crime. You have stolen hundreds and thousands of dollars from people at random, and you say, ‘I forgot?’” Two simple words: Excuuuuuse me!!

Now, most of us don’t have an opportunity to say “I forgot!” … though there are several companies across the country that specialize in the “excuuuusseee ME!!” part of the equation.  The IRS is pretty unforgiving when it comes to such things.  Daschle and Geithner have both made good on their tax liabilities … but they’ve both withdrawn themselves from cabinet consideration.

Richardson, who as you’ll remember also tried to run on his own for President, withdrew his name from consideration due to an investigation of a donor.  They’ve all said much the same thing:

“I don’t want my confirmation to be a distraction to the new administration” … or words to that effect.

This seems to have become the new “I want to spend more time with my family” euphemism that we hear so often coming out of Washington … and state capitals across the country.  I’t politician for “I’ve screwed up, and I’m going to get the heck out of the limelight”.

What President Obama appears to be finding out very quickly is that governing is far more difficult than campaigning.  A new Rassmussen poll indicates that public support for the President Obama/Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid stimulus package has fallen to 37 percent.  Those are approaching Bush-like numbers.  The President, meanwhile, today told reporters that failure to pass the stimulus package would be “a catastrophe”.

He did today cap salaries for executives of companies which receive federal bailout money at $500,000.  Not chump change, but not the millions in pay and perks they’re used to.  It could affect the CEO’s of who-knows-how-man banks, as well as GM and Chrysler.  Maybe it will prevent Larry Flint from pursuing a bailout for the porn industry.  I’m sure he wouldn’t want to take the pay cut.

Still, it’s not getting started as smoothly as President Obama wanted.  I do wish him well.  I want the country to succeed, and he’ll need to do well for that to happen.  I’d also like to see some acknowledgement of the business cycle when we start to pull out of this economic downturn / recession when we inevitably do as well, but that rarely happens.

As for Daschle, at least President Obama admitted he’d made a mistake in tapping him in the first place.  He IS getting out ahead of some of these things as they crop up, and trying to limit them to one news cycle.  That’s smart.  The American people seem to be more forgiving of the screw up than the cover up.  We’ve all made mistakes.  Much better to own up than to obfuscate.  But when the Israeli / Palestinian thing starts to heat up again, which it inevitably will, President Obama is going to learn in a hurry that there is only one President of the United States at a time.

And it’s him.



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Filed under Cabinet Appointments, Governing, Politics, President Obama, Thoughts, Tom Daschle

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