President Obama did a series of television interviews Tuesday with the intention of promoting his stimulus plan. But with two of his nominees withdrawing from contention over tax problems, the conversations naturally veered off-topic. Charlie Gibson reports on Obama's ABC sit-down:
[T]hose were the first questions -- about Tom Daschle, about Nancy Killefer and about Timothy Geithner, who, though confirmed, still didn't pay all of his taxes. And Obama said, Well, it's my fault. He took responsibility.
We said, "Was it an embarrassing day, Mr. President, for this administration?" And he said yes, this is an embarrassment. And he takes responsibility for it. He's the one who, in his inaugural speech, talked about an era of responsibility, saying there can't be two sets of rules for the people in Washington and for the people back home who pay their taxes. Nonetheless, it is an embarrassment for the administration.
On NBC, Obama elaborated on his personal sense of responsibility. "I'm here on television saying I screwed up, and that's part of the era of responsibility," he said. "It's not never making mistakes; it's owning up to them and trying to make sure you never repeat them and that's what we intend to do."
In his interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, Obama emphasized that he still thought Daschle was the best person to shepherd through health care reform but added:
"But I don't want my administration to be sending a message that there are two sets of rules. One for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes everyday. I think I messed up, I screwed up, in not recognizing the perception that even though this is a honest mistake, i believe, on tom's part, that, you know, ordinary people are out there paying taxes everyday and whether it's an intentional mistake or not, it was sending the wrong signal."