Why Daschle Withdrew His Nomination

By Jennifer Parker

Feb 3, 2009 3:24pm

Tom Daschle and his team went to bed last night believing they had had a good day after a horrible weekend.

Monday’s Senate Finance Committee meeting was not easy. (Ranking Republican Chuck Grassley pushed Daschle hard on his relationship with Leo Hindery and his paid work on healthcare issues.)

But Daschle and his team thought they had done well enough. Finance officials, and even some Republicans, in the room signaled support for Daschle.

And Daschle spent the evening calling finance committee members to thank them.
No question, many Democrats grumbled about the position they’d been put in.

But Senate leaders and the White House — especially President Obama — were firm in their support.

Even Senate Republicans believed Daschle would be confirmed after getting roughed up a bit.

So, what happened?

Administration sources insist this was Daschle’s decision alone.
That was certainly the line from Robert Gibbs at the podium Tuesday
A source close to Daschle says "he didn’t have the stomach for the fight."

The double-barreled combination of a blistering New York Times editorial and a front-page story raising questions about President Obama’s commitment to ethics reform in Washington convinced Daschle he had to go.

Already depressed by the recent discovery that his younger brother is stricken with brain cancer, Daschle wasn’t prepared for another week of Senate hazing and damaging headlines.

And, he didn’t want to hurt his friend, Barack Obama.

The fact that the White House had scheduled President Obama with five interviews with network anchors today is one more piece of evidence that suggests this was not what top White House officials were looking for today, but the President didn’t try to convince Daschle to stay and fight.

As sad as he and Daschle’s network of White House friends are about his withdrawal, they know how much damage this has done to Obama’s reputation. The Administration was appearing to set one standard for its allies, and another for the rest of Washington.

Daschle allies who were hoping that he would prevail in administration debates over whether or not to make a full-court press for universal healthcare this year worry that his withdrawal means the issue will be put on the back burner.

No word yet on who will replace Daschle. The search began only this morning.

–George Stephanopoulos

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