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The GOP Giveth, and the IRS Taketh Away

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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

President Obama promised change. And so far he's delivered big-time.

With the nomination yesterday of Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) as commerce secretary, Obama has apparently set a modern record -- and kept a campaign pledge -- for bipartisanship, appointing three Republicans to his Cabinet.

And with the withdrawals of his pick for chief performance officer, Nancy Killefer, and especially of Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Thomas A. Daschle, he may be setting a record for the number of top nominees who have withdrawn -- or, like Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, have run into serious trouble -- over non-payment of taxes.

(And then there's New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who was nominated to be commerce secretary but pulled out because of a "pay-to-play" investigation of his administration.)

Most every president can expect trouble with a few high-profile nominees who are forced to withdraw for various political, policy or personal reasons. Even before these days of YouTube, Google and aggressive oppo-research, Bill Clinton's first nominee for attorney general, Zoe Baird, stepped aside because of a "nanny problem," and George W. Bush's choice for labor secretary, Linda Chavez, withdrew amid questions over financial help she gave to an illegal immigrant.

Daschle's demise came as he was becoming a late-night talk show gag line and a YouTube star. A recently posted video reprised a 1986 congressional reelection campaign ad in which Daschle (who just bought a 2008 BMW convertible) is shown driving his 1971 Pontiac while a narrator intones:

"Among Washington's BMWs and limos is this: Since 1971, the old Pontiac has served its owner well. Sure, it's rusted, and it burns a little oil, but after 15 years and 238,000 miles, Tom Daschle still drives his old car to work every day. Maybe he's sentimental. Or just cheap. Whatever the case, isn't it too bad the rest of Washington doesn't understand that a penny saved is a penny earned?"

Now he's one of Obama's withdrawal symptoms.

Better Than It Sounds

So, with Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill heading to be our man in Baghdad, the question emerges: Whither career diplomat David Satterfield, former ambassador to Lebanon and more recently Iraq coordinator, who's now babysitting the embassy? Answer: He's in line to be director general of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai (MFO).

We know what you're thinking: What kind of reward is that after working in war-torn Baghdad? But last we checked, the head of the MFO doesn't hang out in the Sinai; he lives in a fine villa in Rome. He's not riding a camel; he's strolling along Via Veneto. The MFO has a couple of thousand troops and observers who monitor the Egypt-Israel peace agreement.


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