February 3, 2009
The last thing President Obama needs right now is another ethically-challenged cabinet nominee to divert attention from his agenda, and that is exactly what Tom Daschle is. After a rising tide of outcry that threatened to drag Obama down at the very moment when his "honeymoon" administration should be smooth sailing, the former South Dakota senator announced that he was withdrawing his name from consideration as secretary of health and human services. See CNN.com. The President previously voiced strong confidence in Daschle, and today he expressed sadness at Daschle's poor judgment, which is putting it very mildly. Privately, Obama must be furious at Daschle for creating another ethical uproar.
Why should it matter whether the head of HHS paid all his taxes or not? Well, one of Obama's highest priorities is to reform the health care system in this country, presumably setting up a single-payer system that would be the first big step toward outright socialization of medical care in general. In order to do that, he must allay fears at every step of the way, maximizing the transparency of the process and the integrity of those who carry it out. (The Democrats have clearly learned the lesson from 1993, when Hillary Clinton tried to impose socialized medicine on an unsuspecting public by subterfuge and double-talk.) Any hint that the officials in charge of the "reform" in health care were prone to taking advantage of the system would spark loud protests, so Daschle simply had to go.
While Congress debates how to get our economy restarted, it might be a good idea to review how we got to this point, and in particular, who warned that there was trouble ahead (the Bush administration), and who pretended that everything was just fine (Barney Frank and the Democrats). See the FOX News timeline of the mortgage crisis from last year at YouTube; hat tip to Patrick Carne. I'm not excusing Bush's fiscal profligacy (see Jan. 10), which is another big reason for the lousy economy, but the Democrats in Congress deserve more of the blame.
To be honest, I didn't even know what the the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents was until the recent controversy over shutting it down erupted. It's adjacent to the old Western State (mental) Hospital on the east edge of Staunton, at the top of a hill, and Governor Kaine proposed closing it for budgetary reasons. "Not In My Back Yard!" It's just like when then-Gov. Mark Warner pushed to have the old Staunton Penitentiary closed in 2002, which caused severe job losses in town. Many people thought that Warner was targeting the traditional Republican stronghold for partisan reasons. In response to Gov. Kaine, Delegate Chris Saxman came up with a proposal to fund the CCCA for another year by deferring the purchase of public school textbooks. (Obviously, that's just a stopgap measure.) Saxman was quoted by the News Leader as saying, "Providing a safety-net for children is one of the core services of government." Coming from a politician who is regarded as strongly conservative, that sounded like a strange statement to me. Then Gov. Kaine -- a liberal Democrat if there ever was one -- suggested that the CCCA be privatized, which really put an ideological twist on things. What is going on here?
Well, Chris Graham suggests that Kaine may be slyly turning the rhetorical tables on Delegate Saxman, maneuvering him into an untenable position that would make a future run at statewide office more difficult. I wouldn't doubt it for a minute, and indeed, it bears out my contention that the Governor is much more of a partisan game-player than most people imagine.