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Political bloggers: Obama nominees missteps serious but not critical. Obama has strong but limited influence over Cong. Dems.:

This week's National Journal poll of leading political bloggers asked, "How much damage have controversies surrounding the nominations of Tom Daschle, Timothy Geithner and William Lynn done to President Obama's image?" On the Right, the leading choice was "some", with about a quarter answering "a great deal" or "only a little." On the left, the leading choice was "only a little" (53%), while "some" got about a third.

My view: "Daschle's tax avoidance was impossible to defend as minor or just an honest mistake. It helps Obama in the long run that he will not be in the Cabinet, since he would have been a visible link between the administration and the Rangel/Dodd/Frank congressional culture of corruption. Lynn broke no law (even though his lobbying work offends the far left), and Geithner's original error really was caused by his tax software (as demonstrated by my Volokh Conspiracy colleague James Lindgren)." I think Daschle is a big setback this week, but it will eventually be forgotten--and having someone like Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen rather than Daschle will be much better for Obama (and the country) in the long run.

The second question was: "Based on events of recent weeks, how much sway do you think President Obama will have over congressional Democrats?" On a 1-5 scale, the Left voted for 4.0, and the Right for 3.2. My vote was a tenative 4. "We don't know yet for sure if Pelosi/Obey turning the 'emergency stimulus' into a massive permanent increase in ordinary domestic spending was contrary to Obama's wishes. If so, it suggests that Obama's influence over Congress may be weak. If Obama likes what the so-called 'stimulus' has become, this suggests that the new administration might be as fiscally irresponsible as the previous one."

MartyA:
My view is that it wasn't Daschle's failure to pay taxes on his car and driver that did him in. It's that there were a number of other things that the piss-poor vetters failed to catch up front.
Does anyone really think that that there is a split between Obama and more than a handful of naive Congressional Democrats? Most Congressional Democrats will support ANY President who allows them to payoff their financial supporters with government money. Unions, ACORN and trial lawyers are golden and the Congressmen they own are delighted with Obama.
2.6.2009 12:04pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Geithner's original error really was caused by his tax software (as demonstrated by my Volokh Conspiracy colleague James Lindgren)."


I'm not sure how you or James can still say that given what we know about the fact that (a) Geithner was told specifically by his employer that he was responsible for paying the withholding, (b) asked for (and received) an allowance from his employer to pay the withholding and (c) signed a statement acknowledging his responsibility to make the payments and instead pocketed the extra funds from his employer.
2.6.2009 12:05pm
Houston Lawyer:
If Obama likes what the so-called 'stimulus' has become, this suggests that the new administration might be as fiscally irresponsible as the previous one.

Really going out on a limb on that one. This administration and congress look to be the most fiscally irresponsible evah, and we're less than three weeks in.
2.6.2009 12:07pm
David Drake:
Re the second question: The real question is going to be how much influence Congressional Democrats have over Pres. Obama. This administration could turn out to be close to a parliamentary government in which Pres. Obama rubber stamps whatever Peloi, Reid and Company manage to pass (sort of like Pres. G.W. Bush's first term); if that's the case, then it will be interesting to see whether Pres. Obama raises Congress's abysmal polling numbers, or whether Congress pulls his down.

Agree with you on the first question. Daschle's conduct went way beyond the others.
2.6.2009 12:08pm
Anderson (mail):
"Serious But Critical"?
2.6.2009 12:10pm
Yossarian (mail):
Playing the Armageddon card less than one month into office was Bushian in its futility. He's a lightweight in a heavyweight ring. Aux barricades!!!
2.6.2009 12:10pm
mls (www):

"Geithner's original error really was caused by his tax software (as demonstrated by my Volokh Conspiracy colleague James Lindgren)."

I don't think that is what Professor Lindgren purported to show. His point was that Turbo Tax wouldn't have caught the error, not that it "caused" the error.
2.6.2009 12:26pm
Sarcastro (www):
Yay! It's been 2 weeks, it's already time for the superlatives game!

Congress: "Totally spending America back into a colony of England!"
Obama: "The Obama Meltdown heralds the effective end of his Presidency!"
Daschle: "Revealed to be Caligula in red spectacles"

Welp, that's one Administration down for the count! Nothing left to do but wait till the Six-Pack Revolution and the Joe The Plumber Ascendency of 2010!
2.6.2009 12:56pm
LM (mail):
mls (www):

I don't think that is what Professor Lindgren purported to show. His point was that Turbo Tax wouldn't have caught the error, not that it "caused" the error.

No, his point was, assuming Geithner followed TurboTax's default dialog, that the software would have missed this item. He would have had to override the dialog and enter it manually.
2.6.2009 12:57pm
Pete Freans (mail):
I would argue that the so-called Obama's stimulus bill (which was really written by congressional Democrats) is the most serious of missteps. The president, while boasting that he is consulting with Republicans, has remained largely aloof. His public mantra has been a mere "pass the bill or else". These sporatic comments from Obama makes me question whether he really grasps the details of this behemoth spending bill.

The real problem is that since Obama's advisors and cabinet are still in flux and settling in, he must rely on congressional Democrats to sell a crucial piece of legislation which his presidency hinges on. This does not bode well for him. Defining moments in one's presidency should never be outsourced.
2.6.2009 1:01pm
Reno (mail):
As Patterico so ably demonstrated (sorry; no link), Geithner's failing was in not correcting his 2001-2002 tax filings after the IRS had notified him of his error on the 2003-2004 tax returns. Deciding that the statute of limitations (i.e. the law) was determinative, he ignored his moral (patriotic?) duty to pay the taxes he knew fully well he owed. And that moral failing, that lack of integrity, is what disqualifies from the office he now holds, not Turbo Tax....
2.6.2009 1:14pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Geithner - it depends on whether lots of people start civil disobedience or outright cheating concerning their income taxes in protest of his example. It is certainly possible for people to overwithhold by claiming lots of exemptions. The income tax system depends on voluntary compliance, so it can be desroyed when enough people defy it. And, if enough taxpayers start doing this to materially affect tax receipts, they are too many to effectively prosecute or even audit.

Obama successfully limited the damage done by Dashle and Lynn, but Geithner could still be a serious problem.

For your second question, I think it is still unclear. Obama will certainly be unable to roll Congress given the past few weeks. Much depends on his ability to move the public by appealing to them directly the way Reagan (the "Great Communicator") did. Right now he seems to be floundering around, but his record indicates that he still might be able to do this.
2.6.2009 1:42pm
Matthew J. Brown (mail):
I have a gut feeling that Obama was obliged to offer Daschle that job, as part of the horse-trading that got him support. I suspect Obama might not, actually, be all that disappointed that problems came up.
2.6.2009 2:14pm
Paul Horwitz (mail):
For some reason, the author's genially unself-conscious willingness to refer to himself as a "leading political blogger" -- a term that itself should unloose a few giggles -- reminds me of the opening scene in Richard Russo's novel Straight Man, in which, at a faculty hiring meeting, the narrator is gigged in the nose with a spiral-bound notebook when a professor (a terrible self-published poet) says the English Department shouldn't hire a poet because "we already have one." The narrator says, "Remind me again -- who's our poet?"
2.6.2009 2:23pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Geithner - it depends on whether lots of people start civil disobedience or outright cheating concerning their income taxes in protest of his example. It is certainly possible for people to overwithhold by claiming lots of exemptions. The income tax system depends on voluntary compliance, so it can be desroyed when enough people defy it. And, if enough taxpayers start doing this to materially affect tax receipts, they are too many to effectively prosecute or even audit.


That's an interesting argument; I honestly hadn't considered the implications of the Secretary of the Treasury being outed as a tax "cheat" beyond the sheer offensiveness and irony of it. It has to be difficult enough to get people to voluntarily comply with the tax code when they're concerned about their jobs and tightening their belt -- knowing the guy in charge of collecting it tried to get away with not paying more than most people earn in a year while the administration that appointed him is telling us that it is our "patriotic" duty to pay more taxes, might be enough to put some people over the edge.
2.6.2009 2:28pm
jukeboxgrad's favorite YouTube video:
I have a gut feeling that Obama was obliged to offer Daschle that job, as part of the horse-trading that got him support. I suspect Obama might not, actually, be all that disappointed that problems came up.

I suspect that the real reason that Daschle withdrew was that he and Obama knew that he couldn't rely on the base to stand by him. He could have fought on, but the left wasn't about to go to the mattresses for someone they viewed as being in the pocket of the insurance companies. That's why the New York Times' editorial wasn't much of a surprise. They tried to make it about his tax problems, but they couldn't resist mentioning his lobbying.

Chances are that the left will now get someone whom they'll actually fight for. They're wetting themselves over the prospect of Howard Dean. I'm mostly indifferent, although I don't think that experience treating disease is really a qualification for management of a federal bureaucracy.

(Yes, I know he was a governor. That certainly helps).
2.6.2009 3:24pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Yay! It's been 2 weeks, it's already time for the superlatives game!



And yet, not one word about the superlatives used to support the "MUST!!!! PASS!!!!! NOW!!!!" bill. Not that anyone who's seen more than one post from strawmano expected anything of the sort from him.
2.6.2009 3:26pm
eyesay:
It helps Obama in the long run that he will not be in the Cabinet, since he would have been a visible link between the administration and the Rangel/Dodd/Frank congressional culture of corruption.
Great partisanship there, David Kopel! Never mind Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), a client of "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey's prostitution service, and alleged client of Jeanette Maier, the "Canal Street Madam," and a regular of one of Maier's prostitutes, Wendy Cortez/Ellis. Never mind Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig (R-ID). Never mind Sen. John "Keating Five" McCain (R-AZ). Go after Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), about whom the House Ethics Committee found no evidence that Frank had known of or been involved in alleged illegal activity, and about whom the worst that can be said is that he wrote letters on congressional stationery on behalf of his roommate to Virginia probation officials ... some 30 years ago.
2.6.2009 3:33pm
Sarcastro (www):
Ryan Waxx has a point. I had better start posting about how there is no economic crisis on every thread, even those about other stuff. It's only fair!

I may start to shoehorn illegal immigration and Obama's birth certificate into most conversations as well.
2.6.2009 3:35pm
BGates:
eyesay, I don't think the Frank reference was about the brothel that Congressional Democrats decided the Congressional Democrat wasn't aware of. Frank was one of the chief defenders of Fannie/Freddie at a time he was sleeping with an executive from Fannie. He also wrote one of the bailout bills to essentially direct money into one, little, seedy bank run by a constituent.

I don't care who Barney Frank is sodomizing, so long as it's not the unconsenting taxpayers.
2.6.2009 3:50pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
Thank you for providing an example of why you are known as Strawmano. Not even dominoes delivers that reliably!
2.6.2009 4:00pm
Thales (mail) (www):
The Barney Frank "scandal" is pretty thinly sourced. He has been a supporter of Fannie and Freddie and government assistance with housing for low-income people for a long time before the relationship in question began. Further, he introduced bills to raise the required capital of the two and cut down on their purchase of shady lenders' loans (both were shot down by Congressional Republicans). And lastly, he has championed *rental* housing for people who cannot afford to buy, which seems pretty prescient after the disaster that was President Bush's "ownership society."
2.9.2009 11:14am

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