Opinion: Obama, a bottle of wine ... and thou, Tom Daschle


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It’s almost hard to recall now a time when Barack Obama was received by the political establishment as the young upstart. But so it was.

All the more reason that Obama would appreciate those, like Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who encouraged the young senator from Illinois to leapfrog over his peers and run for the White House.

Obama rewarded that early support and Daschle’s years of experience in Washington by making his onetime mentor the choice as the next secretary of Health and Human Services, putting him in place to help draw the administration’s health policies. (See news video below.)


It’s the second leaked Obama cabinet appointment in as many days, with Eric Holder set to become the new Attorney General, as reported here in The Ticket yesterday.

Daschle described on the PBS documentary ‘Frontline’ this year how he and Obama met in 2006 at one of the then-Senate leader’s favorite restaurants, where they lingered over a bottle of wine and a ‘great meal’ for three hours, discussing Obama’s future.

‘I argued that windows of opportunity for running for the presidency close quickly,’ Daschle recalled. ‘And that he shouldn’t assume, if he passes up this window, that there will be another.’

Obama is expected to announce the selection of Daschle, who wrote a book this year on the healthcare system, early next week.

The expected selection takes a spot some envisioned for outgoing Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean. The folks at Huffington Post published an interview in which the doctor (Dean is a physician) and former Vermont governor tried to unfloat his name.

‘Please do not put me down as a candidate for one agency or another,’ Dean said to HuffPo’s Sam Stein. ‘Because it is all gossip and it doesn’t help at all.... That stuff is very harmful to anyone who is looking to get into the administration.’


The Republican Party immediately pegged Dashcle, who lost his Senate seat in 2006, as just another Washington insider and one who might also be tainted by his work as a consultant for a ‘major lobbying firm.’

‘For voters hoping to see new faces and few lobbyist connections in government, Daschle’s nomination will be another disappointment,’ said Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant. ‘Obama promised to change America’s healthcare system, but his nominee to be secretary is no change agent.’

(UPDATE: Our blogging partner Larry Harnisch over on the Daily Mirror has once again found a little gem tied to today’s news, an archived Times article from 2001 as a useful refresher on the political upbringing of Daschle. Read it here.)

See new news video below.

-- James Rainey

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