The Daschle brouhaha grew especially toxic because it was one of a series: first, the withdrawal of Commerce secretary nominee Bill Richardson, over an investigation into political donations; Treasury secretary Tim Geithner’s own tax delinquency, which he survived; and Nancy Killefer’s withdrawal, two hours before Daschle’s, as chief White House performance officer, again over unpaid taxes.
Obama acknowledged in his interview with NBC News that there can’t be two sets of rules, “you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”
Some analysts suggested that perhaps Obama had set standards that were too high, but Obama has made clear he intends to press ahead with his inaugural promise of a “new era of responsibility.”
If Obama had kept trying to muscle through Daschle’s nomination in the Senate, it would have undermined his efforts at economic stimulus and reform. On Wednesday, Obama and Mr. Geithner announced that they will limit the pay of executives from companies that received federal bailout money.
At the regular afternoon briefing, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to control the damage, but his unwillingness to look back at where these personnel choices went awry left reporters frustrated.
“The president has confidence in the process,” Mr. Gibbs said several times, while acknowledging that the president “takes responsibility” for the series of personnel snags.
The news about Mr. Daschle and Ms. Killefer drowned out the other news of the day: Obama’s choice of a new Commerce secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire. Senator Gregg’s selection, if confirmed by the Senate, will mean three Republicans in his cabinet – the most by an opposition party since the Franklin Roosevelt administration.