Slate chief political correspondent John Dickerson was online at Washingtonpost.com to chat with readers about the withdrawal of health secretary nominee Tom Daschle and the tax problems of Obama's other nominees. An unedited transcript of the chat follows.
John Dickerson: Hello everyone. I'm happy to be here and look forward to your questions.
Boise, Idaho: Richardson. Geithner. The performance officer. Now Daschle. Too late for what should HAVE been done. Geithner has to go. Obama went from an A, to a B, to a C, then a D. He can get back to a B if Geithner resigns.
Kurtz says in this morning's paper that they think we don't have an attention span. That's David Brooks' contention, too. Maybe Republicans don't, but some Democrats do.
Geithner must resign.
washingtonpost.com: Howard Kurtz: Daschle's Demise(Post, Feb. 4)
John Dickerson: Interesting notion. I think Geithner won't resign but I think they are realizing the toll this has taken and that Daschle's departure doesn't solve the problem the White House has with people who feel let down by this special dealing.
And thanks for watching Washington Week!
Silver Spring, Md.: My question is actually about Nancy Killefer. Her tax debt was only about $950. Her position did not require Senate confirmation. Did she pull out voluntarily or was she "encouraged" to leave for appearances sake?
I wonder because I think she could have made a reasonable case that her debt was paid and handled years ago and that it was already reported in the press weeks ago.
John Dickerson: They knew about Killefer's tax problems and thought they could make it through—but that was before Geithner and Daschle. I don't have this reporting, but one of the papers reported today that the White House figured they couldn't handle another tax problem and so she had to resign.
Salt Lake City: I want to see universal health care more than the next guy, but why was Daschle the poster-child for this? Just because of connections?
John Dickerson: Daschle knew the issue and he knew the players from his long experience in Washington. Plus, he and Obama got along very well.
Richmond, Va.: I am glad Slate and WP have linked up. It's a good combo!
I realize there are contemporary perceptions about Republicans (real or exaggerated). They are perceived to be big money, desiring de-regulation for the sake of big profits to a few, etc. (Enron, Halliburton, etc...) Does the current Daschle controversy give legs to the perception that Democrats want OTHER big money people to pay taxes...BUT...not them?
John Dickerson: It certainly contributes to that. Remember Joe Biden said that paying your taxes is patriotic.
San Francisco: Thank you for the great article. Openness does seem a no-brainer to encourage empathy and forgiveness for mistakes. (Who finds our tax code always easy to decipher?) I understand why Sen. Daschle needed to withdraw from consideration, but as a physician who believes our system desperately needs reform, I also worry we've lost a unique leader. Which compromise is better? Ideals or acumen? What about the ideals driving efforts to reform health care? Are they lesser than immediate transparency concerns? I'd be grateful for your comments.
John Dickerson: It's an important balance and a good question. I think in the political context where you're talking about fairness the idea that someone got a special deal because of their inside access undermines the "we're all in this together so lets sacrifice equally" pitch. People think the rich and the well connected get to play by different rules and that hurts the legislative process.
Anonymous: Should an influential government employee like a Sen. Daschle, who sold his influences to private companies, be allowed to come back into government? Who would or could keep him ethical?
John Dickerson: It seems to me the right answer is to set limits and be transparent. A president can make the case that a person is crucial to a project despite their mistakes but he has to make that case and spend that capital. If you do it up front I think you have a chance. When you're reacting to something as Obama and his White House were in this case, it's harder.
La Canada-Flintridge, Calif.: The problem rests in poor screening prior to selection. If the tax problem had been picked up earlier, the rest of it would not have happened.
John Dickerson: They did pick it up in screening. The White House just thought Daschle's other qualifications would get him through.
Dallas: Do you suspect that there is a possibility that President's Obama openness agenda may unintentionally hamper his efforts to effectively govern and execute his policies or do you think all this folderol will cause the administration to quietly abandon the policy of Open Government?
John Dickerson: I don't think obama can abandon it. It was the central message of his campaign: change. Abandoning it would make the central message of his presidency: fraud. Not a word a president wants. And there's the fact that Obama really does believe this stuff about openness. He might have made a mistake here, as he admits, but it's a goal he's trying to get to.
Silicon Valley, Calif.: We should have elected Hillary. She and Bill would never have let something like this happen. Experience matters.
We all wanted change and the Democratic Party's agenda, but failed to realize that the person at the top makes a huge difference. I still believe in and support President Obama but I'm extremely upset about him appointing so many Republicans and about him letting Tom Daschle twist in the wind.
Dashle made an honest mistake. Everybody who has a busy life depends on their accountant to do their taxes. Daschle's accountant screwed up. Every CPA I've talked to about this agrees.