Confirming Daschle -- An Opportunity Fraught with Political Peril

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Feb 02, 2009 4:38 PM
Center-right opinion in the blogosphere is divided over whether the US Senate should confirm Tom Daschle.

Over at RedState, Erick Erickson argues passionately that the GOP should oppose Daschle's confirmation.

Below, Hugh Hewitt cogently lays out the case for confirming Daschle, noting that he is just about the most centrist nominee Obama will choose for a portfolio that includes "reform" of the health care system.  He likewise notes the political advantages for Republicans of keeping their powder dry for bigger, more important fights.

There's no question that the Daschle nomination could be fraught with political peril for Republicans.  Oppose Daschle, and it looks like just more of the same petty political infighting conducted by Beltway insiders who are more concerned about scoring cheap points than doing the work of the people.  Confirm Daschle too quickly, and normal Americans -- who not only don't have drivers but wouldn't have close to $140,000 in cash lying around to pay taxes owed -- suspect that the Beltway crowd simply looks out for its own, regardless of party.  
 
It's a delicate situation.  Even so, if they handle it properly, the Daschle nomination offers Republicans an excellent opportunity to align themselves with the American people -- and to position themselves as standing for the sort of "change" it seems that the American people were seeking.  And obviously, that's where a party needs to be if its candidates stand any chance of winning.

In the end, Republicans should support Daschle's nomination.  Lest, however, they be seen by voters as nothing more than Beltway insiders excusing their former leader's behavior, they need to employ a simple, three-step explanation -- and offer it loudly, clearly and repeatedly, perhaps in some shape resembling the following:

(1) What Daschle did was wrong -- and if he were the nominee of a Republican president, we would likely demand that his nomination be withdrawn.  There should not be one standard of behavior for the powerful, and another for regular Americans.

(2) However, this is not a Republican presidency, and we understand that big decisions and important issues confront us.  We are concerned that if Daschle's nomination goes down in flames, his replacement will be even more extreme -- even more likely to try to "reform" our health care system by putting the government in control of it.  And the American people don't deserve a government-run health care system that combines the compassion of the IRS with the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the Post Office.

(3) In the spirit of bipartisan cooperation and commitment to free market principles when it comes to health care, we will not obstruct Tom Daschle's nomination, despite our clear disapprobation of his conduct with regard to his taxes.  President Obama apparently believes that Daschle is the best man for the job, and we believe he is the most centrist nominee America is likely to get.