President admits fault in appointment

February 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
President Obama admitted on Tuesday night he made a mistake in his handling of the tax controversy surrounding the nomination of Tom Daschle. The president's choice for health and human services secretary withdrew his name Tuesday. Two nominees in one day had to back out for tax reasons.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was thought to be perfectly suited for the role of health and human services secretary. His comprehensive knowledge of health care policy, combined with inside knowledge of Capitol Hill, were going to help the president shepherd legislation through congress.

Still, none of that could overcome Daschle's tax troubles. In an interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, the president took full responsibility.

"The most important thing, from my perspective, is making sure that the American people understand we don't have two sets of rules here, that everybody has responsibilities. In this situation, I take responsibility for it," said President Barack Obama.

Dachle withdrew his nomination after it was revealed he failed to pay $128,000 in taxes, primarily for personal use of a car and driver provided to him by a firm for which he consulted.

Kirk Hanson is the executive director of the Markkula Center of Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

"If an individual is found to be careless about that it raises questions about how sensitive they may be to other ethical issues that they'll face as a government appointee," said Hanson.

Daschle is the latest appointee caught in a tax quagmire. Nancy Killefer, was set to become chief White House performance officer, but withdrew her name after it was revealed she failed to pay nearly $1,000 in unemployment taxes on household help.

Tim Geithner though, stuck through with the nomination process despite a late payment of $34,000 in income taxes. He was confirmed as treasury secretary last week.

Political consultant Bill Whalen from the Hoover Institution says the fact that Geithner was able to press ahead and not Daschle goes to show the priorities of the Obama Administration.

"Lose your Treasury Secretary, the guy who supposedly the only person in America who can fix the economy at this point, that's crippling. Now, while losing Tom Daschle is a serious setback to health care reform any time soon, it's not crippling to the presidency overall," said Whalen.

Former physician and DNC chairman Howard Dean is being mentioned as a replacement. Other possibilities include Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.