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

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I think Geithner won't resign but I think they are realizing the toll this has taken: But he's the only one who SHOULD resign. Can we really be expected to play by the rules if the Secretary doesn't?

John Dickerson: This is the sentiment that is causing problems for Obama and the legislation he's putting forward.


Bronx, N.Y.: Its just a little too precious to hear these hacks who didn't say didly when Abromoff was raiding the treasury, or who didn't care when Kenny Boy was vetting Bush's cabinet, to be giving their sanctimonious speeches now. Any recorded instances of a politician's head exploding from the weight of rank hypocrisy? Note to next Democratic president: Lose the 'restoring ethics' theme and wallow in the slime like the rest of them. The press likes it better.


John Dickerson: I'm not quite sure who the target here is but it seems overly ambitious to rail against hypocrisy while suggesting candidates should act hypocritically by running against things they believe in.


Philadelphia, PA: The basic point in how to avoid making such a "mistake" as Geithner and Daschle made: be honest.

The second step is each of these "gentlemen" should buy themselves or their tax advisors a copy of TurboTax for about $50 and use it—both of the points that these two, unfortunate, undereducated and inexperienced individuals made would have been picked up by TurboTax if they answered the questions HONESTLY.

It's interesting that none of these politicians have ever been accused of overpaying their taxes!

John Dickerson: Perhaps they could put money in the stimulus package for turbotax.


Santa Fe, N.M.: I am more concerned with looking forward on reforming health care than with looking backward on mistakes make in vetting and appointments. If Sen. Daschle is such a good guy and so necessary to implement the President's health care reform package, why doesn't he repent by paying the usual 20 percent penalty on the taxes he neglected to pay and volunteer to serve his country by shepherding through the reform package on a pro bono basis?

John Dickerson: He's too damaged a messenger. The penalty wouldn't have fixed the notion that the well-connected are treated differently. There's also the special-interest problem which has nothing to do with taxes.


TurboTax: Does it ask you if you have a car and driver? I use TaxAct and it never asked me that question.

John Dickerson: My guess is that it asks you if you receive any other form of compensation. The "honesty" point would come in if Daschle was being dishonest by thinking the car was a gift from a friend. TurboTax would not have helped him if he thought, as he says he did, that the car was a gift from a friend and not compensation.


Plano, Texas: Love your column and insight on Slate; I'm an avid fan.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on how much leeway Obama and the administration have in terms of the public perception. He's come in (rightly so, in my view at least) on such a wave of hope and change and likability, painted favorably for the most part by the news media and popular opinion. Do revelations such as these mean that his grace period with public opinion is ending? Does the snafu with Daschle just serve as a cold reminder that politicians are just politicians? (Or is it just too soon to tell?)

John Dickerson: Thanks very much for reading and your kinds words.

I think it's too soon to tell. This is a good sized bump but then so was Reverend Wright during the campaign. Obama is known for his equanimity and so he'll have to show that here. He'll move past this—which he partially did by admitting his mistake—and then he'll have to show that he can put together a stimulus package that meets his goals. If he can do that, which essentially means performing a series of difficult consecutive dance maneuvers over a sustained period of time, then he'll be back to roughly where he was before the Daschle flap.


Washington, D.C.: I think Obama is acting disgracefully with respect to Daschle. Daschle was one of the first seasoned politicians to support Obama's presidential run, and supported him every step of the way. Indeed, there's a decent argument that Obama would never be where he is without having gained the critical support of Daschle early on. Obama made a political calculation that he wanted Daschle for HHS and had no problem trumpeting his qualifications, all the while knowing that a tax issue lingered in the background. Then there's some public fallout over the issue and Obama goes on multiple national TV networks to say he "screwed up"? Obama is completely throwing Daschle under the bus, so that he can come off as this pious believer in change. What a joke. Obama could have handled this with a lot more class and dignity.

John Dickerson: Interesting. Thanks for that perspective. As a political matter it seems to me that after the guy throws himself under a bus, as Daschle did, Obama can follow on in doing so. This isn't to refute the point you make at the personal level. I'm trying to think it through.


D.C.: For the record, Geithner said he WAS using TurboTax.

John Dickerson: This is right. He said he used it and didn't remember being prompted. The company never argued that he would have been. It said the software relies on accurate information from the person doing their taxes. In this case, Geithner.


Berkeley, Calif.: Any ideas on who might be Daschle's replacement?

John Dickerson: I have no idea. I haven't been doing any reporting on that today. I'm trying to figure out where the stimulus package is going.


New York : Obama couldn't win this one. For him not to give Daschle something would have been ingratitude, and a sign that he wouldn't reward his friends. Daschle mentored him when he got to the Senate, and Obama owed him big time. Who told Daschle not to pay his taxes, or to lie about it to the vetters? Or to wait until last month to pay the piper? And it would be nice if someone, anyone in the media reported that the Left is very very happy that this guy is not calling the shots on health reform. Or would that irritate the other sleezy characters in government?

John Dickerson: I've seen mixed views on Daschle from "the left" so perhaps that's why the piece hasn't been written. But it probably will be.


John Dickerson: Okay, thanks everyone. I've got to run to do an interview. Thanks for your questions. Be well.