It’s a damned shame to see Tom Daschle drop out of the running for HHS secretary.

Yes, he made a mistake, a dumb mistake, by not paying his taxes. But, as President Obama says, who hasn’t made a mistake?

Besides, given the president’s goal of making sure every American has quality, affordable healthcare — and given the fact that nobody is better qualified than Daschle to lead the fight — wouldn’t it have been better to stick with Tom Daschle than let him loose over a mistake on taxes? Absolutely!

I admire Obama for nominating Daschle. I just wish he had stuck with him until the end, or that both Obama and Daschle had chosen to stay and fight, rather than cut and run.

Of course, Daschle’s problem, in part, was that he was not the first. If Tim Geithner hadn’t also experienced tax problems, Daschle could have more easily stuck it out. But, for the new administration, this was one tax mess too many.

Daschle’s other problem was that Obama himself has set the clean-government bar so high that many outstanding, highly qualified individuals can not meet the test. And, of course, Daschle was brought down by an intolerant public and an unforgiving media, who demand much more of others than they do of themselves.

The tragedy is, Daschle’s departure deals a serious blow to the cause of universal healthcare. With 47 million Americans with no health insurance, the need for basic health reform is greater than ever. It’s Obama’s goal that every American be covered. But we’ll have a harder time getting there without Tom Daschle.

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