Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Creature of the System

Eugene Robinson of the WaPo writes:

The problem with Tom Daschle's nomination as health and human services secretary and health czar wasn't just that he failed to pay income tax on the use of a car and the services of a driver. That's what forced him to withdraw, but the more fundamental issue was, or should have been, that he had the free use of a chauffeured limousine in the first place. The real problem was that Daschle's post-Senate career so vividly illustrates the back-scratching culture that Barack Obama has pledged to change.

Daschle, who is not a lawyer, was being paid a million dollars a year by a law firm. As what? Not a lobbyist -- at least, not officially. But it's safe to say that he wouldn't have been offered that sinecure if he hadn't been such a powerful senator. Daschle has juice. He could talk to people, take positions, speak authoritatively. He was an important man who, it goes without saying, needed to have a car and driver at his disposal. In just two years after leaving the Senate, he made something like $5.3 million.

This is not corruption, but neither is it change we can believe in. Tom Daschle is a good guy, but he's a creature of the system that Obama campaigned against -- the system that works discreetly, in back corridors and at cocktail parties, for monied special interests. It's not that all special interests are evil (even the health industry). It's that this system, according to Obama, has thwarted the nation's repeated attempts to deal with fundamental issues, such as health care. Daschle looked more like part of the problem than part of the solution.

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