If former Sen. Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) mistake on his taxes was unintentional (as President Obama expressed last night), then he should have become the next secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Reasonable people could make the mistake Daschle made. He didn't create an elaborate leasing tax shelter to hide income. He said it was a mistake and apologized. That does not excuse Daschle from paying his back taxes or some sort of penalty (“Ignorance of the law is no excuse”), but it also doesn’t mean Daschle should be prevented from serving in the Cabinet.

Politicians aren’t perfect. They aren’t saints, and they make mistakes like the rest of us.

Just wait until the next of generation office-seekers — the first generation of Facebook users — has its collective past combed with the same fine teeth (Michael Phelps can cross public service off his post-swimming career choices). The only persons available to serve in future Cabinets will have been those lucky enough to go to high school and college in Syria (where they banned Facebook). It is acceptable to hold politicians to a higher standard, but not if the standard is on par with canonization.

This was a short-term political calculation by Daschle that will have had a shorter half-life than any reforms that would have been enacted from his leadership of HHS and the Office of Health Reform. Our government isn’t any cleaner or more accountable now that he won’t be in public service; my guess is that the opposite is actually true.


The views expressed in this blog do not represent the views or opinions of Generations United.