John Dickerson takes your questions on Tom Daschle's withdrawal.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Feb. 4 2009 4:11 PM

Withdrawal Symptoms

John Dickerson takes your questions on Tom Daschle's retreat and the tax problems of Obama's nominees.

(Continued from Page 1)

It doesn't matter, though, because Republicans will keep running the show because Democrats never stand up to them. None of this would have happened if Hillary was in charge.

Sometimes, you just have to fight for what you believe in. Democrats need to learn how to fight and how to win when Republicans stir up tempests in teapots. You have to defeat an enemy first before you can turn them into a friend. Republicans view Democrats as "the enemy." Democrats would be wise to view Republicans the same way.

John Dickerson: This may all be true but this wasn't a Republican v. Democrat thing. It was people on obama's side who thought Daschle was a pick that didn't live up to Obama's own standards. In the end, Obama seems to say that's what he believes too.

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Grand Rapids, Mich.: I don't believe there are any saints walking around this earth. Therefore, your transparency argument regarding Sen. Daschle begs the following question: how do you effectively involve the public (i.e. without the feeding frenzy you discuss) in deciding which ethical lapses of any candidate for public office or appointment are disqualifying? (For example, Captain Sullenberger's failure to return his library book on time would not be a disqualifier in public opinion. On second thought, perhaps he is the one saint among us...)

As a political matter, has President Obama addressed this question?

John Dickerson: I think the middle ground is that a president is up front about these problems and makes his case for why they shouldn't be disqualifying.

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Chicago: It is obvious that Obama is trying to reach back for some old-timers who can help bridge the partisan gap, like Biden.

On the other side of this is that most if not all old pols are tainted in some way and certainly do not represent "change".

I would rather see young, more idealistic people getting on his ship. If Obama is to make his regime transparent and make "change" one of his priorities, and not have business as usual in Washington, what do you suggest that he do to bridge the wide partisan gap?

John Dickerson: It's tricky. I'm not sure he has to only hire people with no experience. I just think he has to be up front about it to save himself the headaches that come when people realize that his candidates for these posts have problems. If he's up front people might not judge his motives and he'll be able to make the case for their merits.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: I think as soon as the White House was informed about Daschle's tax problems, his name should have immediately been removed from the nomination. President Obama should have called a press conference to announce the problem and his decision; and reiterate because of his belief in a transparent government, he has chosen to remove Daschle's name.

This action would have sent a stronger message to the American people. The message that this new Administration will not wait on the media to expose corruption amongst any nominees, etc, but the President, when made aware of any potential corruption and embarrassment will move swiftly in addressing the issue; and removing people if necessary.

Since the media had to expose this corruption, I wonder just how effective is the President's team in vetting individuals.

John Dickerson: The vet was fine. The White House made a calculation: that Daschle's qualifications for the job would overcome the problems.

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Audit them all: Here's a thought. Audit all members of the Senate and House and make the results public. I think this would promote transparency, accountability and responsibility. Also, a few good headlines, no?

John Dickerson: And it would probably clear out half the House and Senate.

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Chattanooga, Tenn.: I was going to quit paying my taxes start using a limousine service to take me everywhere I went in an attempt to get the administration to consider me for a Cabinet level position like Sec. of Dereliction, but I sense that conventional wisdom in this regard may be shifting.

John Dickerson: Plus, with budget cuts that department is likely to be zero funded.

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Anonymous: I imagine the Obama Administration will take a while to come up with a new HHS nominee (and add a question such as, "Is there anything—I mean anything—that might serve as an obstacle to your nomination and make the President look like a chump for choosing you?"). Will they shy away from naming someone who has been a success in the private sector, since those with big bucks may use more tax loopholes to avoid paying high taxes (something Republicans are against, of course)? Does Obama need to choose someone currently in office, hoping they have at least been recently partly vetted? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Sarah Palin?

John Dickerson: It's going to take a while, I would think too, and I wonder what the standard is now that Daschle has gone. How will the next person with an issue be treated by the opposition and the press?

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Washington, DC: It may have been the accountant's fault for Daschle's taxes, but I still found it refreshing that Obama willingly said, multiple times yesterday to multiple news outlets, that he screwed up. As disappointing as most of this has been, I have to admit that made it a little more bearable.

John Dickerson: Yup. Obama said he would admit mistakes and he did. Refreshing and candid.

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What does this say about the tax code?: Is it so complicated that even the best and brightest in the country (including some who helped write the laws) can't totally understand it? Or are they flagrantly disregarding their obligations?

John Dickerson: Yes, you could almost imagine that it's a stealth effort to build support for the flat tax.

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Clifton Forge, Va.: Why in the world would Obama's check out group not look closely into every cabinet appointee's financial situation, especially taxes, before giving Obama the OK sign? Clinton's attempt to fill the Attorney General twice in his first term should have registered a reference area.

John Dickerson: They did look through the tax question. They knew about it and just thought they could handle the fallout.

btw, I love Clifton Forge.

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