Wouldn’t you love to have had an all-access backstage pass to witness what happened in the past 24 hours? Daschle is, by all accounts, universally liked and respected, on both sides of the aisle. Every account describes him as a decent and friendly and fair-minded guy.

Partly, that begs the question of how a well-liked, respected, decent, friendly, fair-minded guy gets himself into a jam with the IRS in the first place. I want to believe the best. I am a business owner, and my taxes are complex, and some years I am paying extra to reflect updated accounting, some years I am getting big sums back. I know that it is all over my head and that I must have a lot of faith in my tax accountant. Maybe Daschle’s tax problems are somewhere in that space, I don’t know. (Separately, I continue to wonder how anyone can receive enough auto services to add up to the kind of reportable income that it takes to generate $128,000 of tax liability, but that’s another post. Literally: https://thecentersquare.wordpress.com/2009/02/01/tom-daschles-taxes-what-are-we-missing-here/).

But Daschle has exited, and now the question is: what do we infer from the failure of his nomination? Is this Obama sticking to his changing-the-way-business-is-done-in-Washington guns? Is this the Republicans clinging to gotcha politics, seizing an opportunity to embarrass a Democrat despite his unassailable credentials? Is this because there is more to the tax story than has been reported?

We don’t know. But I’ll wager this: healthcare policy in the coming four years won’t be managed as well — for you or me or the rest of the country — because of the failure of the Daschle nomination. No matter how true the other issues are, that is the important thing.


Does it make any sense that Tom Daschle owed $128,000 in back taxes related to the use of a car? If that was the amount of the unpaid taxes, then the unreported income would have to have been $300,000 or more. Maybe I just don’t live the high Washington life, but I just cannot see how anyone can receive that much value in car services. Are we getting a clear story here?

I am strongly in favor of Mr. Daschle being confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. But I do think before we rush to judgment, or rush to his defense, we need to make sure we understand the tax issues with greater clarity.