The way the tax controversies played out couldn’t have been worse for Obama. Actually, the worst result would have been forcing Daschle through. But short of that, this is as bad as it gets. That Obama at first defended Daschle makes the president look like a hypocrite, but Daschle’s withdrawal suggests the Obama administration thinks there should be a standard of having paid your taxes if you’re up for high office–a standard that the secretary of the treasury is in violation of. In short, Obama takes a hit in his reputation for change by having nominated and (initially) defended both Daschle and Geithner; he loses two nominees in a day, undermining his reputation for competence as well; and, after all this, Republicans still have a dramatic symbol of a two-tiered tax system in the person of the guy who heads the IRS and almost certainly cheated on his taxes. This is hardly the unraveling of the Obama administration, but it’s a big blow.
UPDATE. An e-mail:
At the core of BO’s decision making is the fact that he prefers to wait to make hard decisions, and does not have a set of strong guiding principles, the complete opposite of McCain. This explains why he couldn’t take a firm position (no tax cheats in my administration) at the time, and initially supported Daschle. Moreover, because he’s a product of Chicago politics, and isn’t a reformer, nor a real change agent, he seems to be inherently incapable of recognizing unethical behavior at his core.