Amid the growing controversy over his unpaid taxes, Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination for secretary of health and human services Tuesday. During an interview with NBC later that day, President Barack Obama apologized to the nation. The editorial board of The Miami Student believes that given the circumstances, Daschle’s decision to relinquish his nomination was the only appropriate choice available to him. In addition, we applaud Obama for quickly responding to and taking responsibility for the situation.
Obama’s apology has immediately set a tone very different from that of the previous administration. Whereas President George W. Bush was unwilling to label certain decisions as mistakes, not two months in office and already Obama has acknowledged an error. The frankness of his admission does indeed give evidence to a change in Washington. Although Daschle’s nomination fell through because he failed to live up to the new ethics standards Obama has set, the transparency with which this all unfolded, in fact, demonstrates the commitment of this administration to those standards.
That being said, the alacrity with which Obama issued an apology can be seen as imprudent. Although he did take responsibility, which is usually appreciated when an error has been committed, he took responsibility for a mistake that he himself didn’t make. The fault lies with Daschle, who failed to inform Obama about his unpaid taxes before Obama nominated him for the post.
Some members of the board believe apologizing implies guilt, which implicates that Obama knew in advance of Daschle’s tax problems, but went ahead with the nomination anyway. However, that was not the case. In addition, it seems very early in Obama’s administration for Obama to be apologizing to the nation. Given the stature of the office, perhaps Obama should save presidential apologies for later crises of greater magnitude.
Still, Obama’s intention was not to assume Daschle’s guilt, but instead take responsibility for his own judgment in naming Daschle as his choice for the position. By acting with speed, Obama was able to solve the problem before it grew beyond his control. The problem he faces though, as this evinces, is that the nation has high expectations for him. The population wants to see a perfect cabinet. But Obama is not Midas. The public must be flexible and patient as the new President builds his cabinet. Even though Daschle didn’t withstand Senate vetting, which he shouldn’t have, Obama has been frank with the American people. His effort to maintain transparency is praiseworthy, even while his nominations may not prove to be also.