Tom Daschle has capitulated to public pressure and renounced his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services. The former majority leader of the U.S. Senate says that the New York Times editorial mentioned in one of my posts from earlier today convinced him that his scandals would prove too much of a distraction to the President's health-care-reform agenda. Is one newspaper in this audiovisual age so powerful that it can undo a popular president's will? The Times is important because it represents an important Obama constituency of intellectual liberals, and its editorial reflects a loss of confidence in Daschle. But it also gives both Obama and Daschle some cover. It's obviously more pleasant for them to say that the Times tipped the balance against the nomination than giving credit to Rush Limbaugh or any number of conservative talkers who've been railing against Daschle. I don't mean to suggest that the conservatives deserve the credit, but I do wonder whether one newspaper's opinion counted for more than a popular outcry that actually crossed partisan and ideological lines. Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives and independents ought to be able to agree that they want neither corruption nor incompetence in the Obama cabinet. We might comfort ourselves by claiming that the Times only reflected that public outcry, and we can certainly conclude objectively that the outcry influenced the editorial. But while I'd like to say that an aroused populace drove Daschle out of the Cabinet, I don't know if the evidence would back me. We may learn more about the making of the Times editorial down the line, but we won't necessarily like what we see. But Daschle is gone, and that's probably a good thing, so let's leave it at that for now.
Epilogue: In a damage-control interview with NBC, the President says: "I’ve got to own up to my mistake. Ultimately, it’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes." It would have been mean, but the interviewer ought to have asked him, "When did you find this out?"