Tom Daschle’s nomination to be President Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services is a bonanza for irony junkies.
* After his nomination, Daschle was idolized by this town and the media who cover it, while the small matter of voters in his own state rejecting him for a conservative Republican has been largely ignored.
* Obama ran as the candidate who will break the influence of corporate lobbyists, and Daschle wrote a finger-wagging book about how special interests have too much control over how government runs the health care sector. Then we find that after Daschle left the Senate he, um, earned some $5.3 million over two years from those very special interests, who are already demanding favors.
* Speaking of finger-wagging against corruption or the appearance thereof, it turns out that Daschle plowed much of that income into the campaign coffers of 14 or so senators who will vote on his confirmation.
* And while he paid taxes on most of that income, the $128,000 he forgot to pay–more than double the median family income–shows that Daschle himself couldn’t quite grok the monstrous tax code that he helped create during his nearly three decades in Congress, and that he expects his less-sophisticated countrymen to obey on pain of imprisonment.
But perhaps the greatest irony is that, whether or not he is confirmed, this should-be-chastening episode will not change Daschle’s tune on health care reform one bit. That’s because Daschle’s idea of health care reform is to give government more power with less accountability. We can begin counting down the days until some left-wing health reformer says, “If the industry’s influence is so pervasive that not even Tom Daschle–the acknowledged gold standard for integrity in government–can escape industry money, then we need a completely unaccountable Federal Health Board to make the important decisions about our health care.” (Of course, I’m assuming no one has said that already.)
That argument will resonate in certain quarters. I doubt it will pass the public’s smell test.