Tom Daschle as victim of Barack Obama’s splendor

The Washington Post claims that Tom Daschle’s demise is the result of a change in the capital’s ways brought on by President Obama and his “promise that the time has come for a break with the past.” According to the Post, it is “a classic rule of Washington’s political culture” that “public service can lead to personal riches.” But that rule no longer applies under Barack Obama.

This is nonsense. The nomination of Daschle didn’t crash and burn because his public service led to riches, but rather because he didn’t pay his taxes on some of those riches. But the authors (R. Jeffrey Smith, Cecilla Kang, and Joe Stephens) fail to mention Daschle’s tax problems until the sixth paragraph, after they have already claimed, in the second paragraph, that Dashcle was “forced to step aside. . .because of problematic ties to wealthy private interests.”

This story represents the Post’s effort to spin on behalf of both Daschle and Obama. Daschle is portrayed as the victim of new Washington mores, even though the Post cites no past instances in which someone with tax issues like Daschle’s was confirmed for a cabinet post. In fact, the confirmation of Secretary of Treasury Geithner earlier this year suggests that, if anything, Washington standards are becoming more relaxed. Again, Daschle did not lose out because he followed “a well-worn path, trod by dozens of ex-lawmakers in the past decade.” He lost out because he failed to comply with the tax laws.

As for Obama, the Post is characteristically worshipful. By attributing Daschle’s difficulties to the president’s “promise that the time has come for a break with the past,” the Post transforms a blunder by Obama into another example of how wonderful he is.

To his credit, the president was far more honest. He confessed to “screw[ing] up in this situation,” and added that taxpayers deserve to have public officials who pay their taxes on time.

There’s nothing new in that imperative and, unlike the Post, Obama did not pretend that there is.

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