"...if 30 years of exposure to the challenges inherent in our system has taught me anything, it has taught me that this work will require a leader who can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction.
Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction. The focus of Congress should be on the urgent business of moving the president's economic agenda forward, including affordable health care for every American."
Personally, I think that Daschle withdrawing his nomination is a positive outcome. Just the other day I expressed my concern over Daschle's numerous conflicts of interest and the fact that Daschle represents anything but the change that Obama has stated that he will bring to Washington.
One need only look as far as the level of support that Daschle has received from figures such as Bob Dole and other members of Congress despite his reputation outside the beltway of making millions pushing for the interests of big pharma. How ironic that he would then be tapped to oversee the industry that helped make him so much money. It is also telling the amount of "shock" that is being expressed by various members of Congress in reacting to Daschle's announcement today.
“To tell you the truth, I’m in shock," said Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA). Senator John Kerry even suggested that Daschle's problems are overblown and should not be held against him when you take into account the larger picture. “We’re getting silly here, and people ought to step back and measure these things against the larger picture,” Kerry said, “We’re going to miss his talents being directly involved in the health care reform effort.”
The only surprise that I am feeling is that Daschle decided to withdraw at all. Despite all of these troubles, the vast support for his nomination to this position made it clear that he would have no trouble being confirmed. Washington has operated like this for years and the staunch support of Daschle from all of his beltway friends is a prime example of why he is not a good fit for an Obama White House that wants to change this very system.
Hopefully Obama will take this opportunity to choose a more progressive thinking champion for health care reform when he nominates a replacement for Daschle. It would be a refreshing step-up from a beltway politician who has vast interest in big pharma industries and it would be an indication that Obama is serious about reforming our broken health care system. As The Nation's John Nichols put in his piece this afternoon:
No one -- or, at least, no one who is invested either in securing real health care reform or seeing an Obama presidency succeed -- should mourn Daschle's departure. Daschle was always a better fit with Bush's administration than Obama's.