MEDIA
03/07/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Daschle's Withdrawal Isn't Such A Bad Thing

The whole world is performing their post-mortem wrestle with the departure of Tom Daschle from the Obama administration, and What It Means. For my money, Brian Beutler has wrapped it up very sensibly and clearly:

Obama promised change*, and just hoped everybody would ignore the giant asterisk. He set up two different definitions of vetting: One for people outside the family, who had to be squeaky clean, and one for people inside the family and people he was stuck with (Hillary), who didn't. For the latter group, vetting meant digging up the embarrassing details of their pasts and then cooking up talking points in the event that the press sniffed some of it out. And that wasn't going to fly forever.

Which isn't to say Obama's a huge hypocrite or just another corrupt hack. I think he was up against an extremely difficult task and began to feel the tension between setting up a working administration quickly and smoothly, and making sure all of its members met a standard of ethics that's difficult to obtain in politics. He promised both, though, and so he had to deliver both-or at least appear to be trying to deliver both. Daschle made it look like he wasn't even trying.

Of course, the extant issue, to my mind, is one of consistency, and the continuing presence of Timothy Geithner in the administration. Obama's set the rules of engagement thusly: Geithner's an indispensable expert who will solve the greatest crisis our nation faces. One hopes that Geithner gains some perspective from Daschle's fall and recognizes the pressure he is under to perform.

As for Daschle, well, I'm not going to mourn his departure all that much. In the first place, I'm not at all convinced that Daschle's health-care expertise has him that far ahead of whoever the Next Best Option is. More importantly, I've never thought that the cautious, get-along-to-go-along Daschle was a great fit with an administration that has so far acted as if it aspired to a certain degree of boldness. Maybe it's unfair of me to say that if "hyper-timid, incrementalist bullshit" sprouted legs, it would look like Daschle, but if "hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit" sprouted legs, which then subsequently suffered muscle atrophy from disuse because it was driven everywhere in limousines, then that would bear a more-than-passing resemblance.