Daschle's exit a big deal? Talking heads disagree!

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo
Former Sen. Tom Daschle, President Barack Obama's choice to head the Health and Human Services, speaks to the media after a closed session meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill, Monday, Feb. 2, 2009, in Washington.

How big of a deal is Tom Daschle's decision to bow out as the nominee for the head of Health and Human Services? Depends who you ask.

On Monday, President Obama said he "absolutely" stood by Daschle. The next day, however, Obama said of Daschle, "I screwed up."

So it seems like it might depend on when to ask as well.

Differing opinions?

Regardless, with Daschle's departure, along with Nancy Killefer's withdrawal for tax reasons too (she was to be the nation's first chief performance officer), the talking heads were buzzing Tuesday night over the implications.

Shockingly, MSNBC and FOX News see the issue differently.

Hair on fire

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow thinks it's no big deal. She pooh-poohed the issue, asking, "Why is everyone's hair on fire about Tom Daschle?"

"So Tom Daschle had to withdraw as a nominee as well as that other person who was going to be in that job that doesn't exist now," she said referencing Killefer.

"This is obviously the end of the world!" Maddow said, feigning outrage.

She compared yesterday's withdrawals to the early exits of Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood.

Remember those people?

"If you said vaguely, then congratulations," she offered. "You have just put today's Tom Daschle news in perspective."

If you don't recall them, they were unsuccessful nominees for Attorney General under President Bill Clinton.


Au contraire, says FOX's Sean Hannity (but in English). In a segment titled, "Ethical Shortcomings," Hannity lambasted President Obama, citing yesterday's twin departures and the tax problems of Treasury Secretary Geitner.

"Perhaps the worst part of this whole sordid affair is the president's empty promise of a higher standard of ethics," he said. "He promised to keep lobbyists out of the White House and then he hired them anyway."

"And when faced with the embarrassing truth that the administration had nominated individuals with problems to the cabinet, they did nothing. Even yesterday the president said he still stood behind Tom Daschle's nomination."

Middle of the road

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

As ABC's Sam Donaldson says this morning, "Political Washington is recalculating its view that the president and his people know what they're doing and are truly different from the type of politician the country has grown to dislike. Every president stumbles now and then, and so far this one has been more sure-footed than most. Still, the questions about Obama and his advisers are now very much on the table for continued inspection."

Who's next?

By the way, now that Daschle is out, who might get the nod for HHS? You may have heard the names buzzing around: Howard Dean, Kansas Governor Kathy Sebelius, California's Health and Human Services Secretary Kim Belshe, and former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber are just a few of them.

A couple names brought up last night on MSNBC, however, were unique.

President Clinton?

Newsweek's Howard Fineman said Tom Daschle's shoes are big ones to fill. So he suggested you need someone bigger, like the 42nd president.

"Health care is the big long term issue domestically for the United States," Fineman said. "It is going to take someone who is a majority leader of maybe even a president to put all the pieces of the puzle together. If Bill Clinton has the time, he'd be great."

When asked if people are pushing for the former president or if this could be a possibility, Fineman said, "No."

Joe the Secretary

More absurdity later in the hour when author/comedian Michael Ian Black appeared on the program.

His recommendation? Joe the Plumber (who is currently advising the GOP on the economy).

"My understanding is we need a Secretary of Health and Human Services," Black said. "If he could only do for health care what he's done for every other project that he's tackled ... nothing good will happen."

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