Click to view image: '92e963a37487-marionbarry001.jpg'If a certain sort of conservative tends to be moralistic about sex, liberals tend to be moralistic about money. That makes Tom Daschle the equivalent of a televangelist caught in a sex scandal.
Daschle, now President Obama's nominee for secretary of health and human services, was first elected to Congress in 1978 as a Democrat from South Dakota. In 2004, in the final throes of the Bush majority, voters ousted him from the Senate.
Forced into the private sector, he returned to Aberdeen, S.D., and eked out a living growing wheat on the Daschle family farm. As if! Actually, he stayed in Washington, joined a lobbying firm--albeit as a "special policy adviser," since as a former senator he was prohibited by law from "lobbying"--and raked in the bucks. The prairie populist became a plutocrat, as the Washington Post reports:
Without becoming a registered lobbyist, he made millions of dollars giving public speeches and private counsel to insurers, hospitals, realtors, farmers, energy firms and telecommunications companies with complex regulatory and legislative interests in Washington.
Daschle's expertise and insights, gleaned over 26 years in Congress, earned him more than $5 million over the past two years, including $220,000 from the health-care industry, and perks such as a chauffeured Cadillac, according to the documents.
We thought of a catchy term for people who claim to be tribunes of the poor while getting driven around by a chauffeur. We're going to call them "limousine liberals."
Anyway, there was one little "glitch," as the Washington Post calls it. Daschle, who in 1998 said, "Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter" (hat tip: National Review Online), did not pay all the taxes he owed. In particular, he did not pay taxes on the use of the limo, saying he regarded it as merely a "generous offer from a friend."
He finally coughed up the money last month, after Obama nominated him. An earlier story on the Post Web site puts the sum in question at $101,943, which covered three years. That's just the tax (plus interest) on his limo, suggesting that its actual value was somewhere on the order of $100,000 a year. In 2007, the median income for a South Dakota family of four was $66,451.
Bloomberg notes that Daschle also failed to report some income, so that his total additional tax bill came to $128,203 plus $11,964 in interest. And it turns out that even this was an underpayment:
The former senator has agreed that he will have to adjust again his 2005, 2006 and 2007 tax returns because he didn't pay Medicare taxes on the additional taxable income he incurred with the use of the car, the Finance Committee staff reported.
As Health and Human Services secretary, Daschle would oversee Medicare, the insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
Last week Timothy Geithner was confirmed as Treasury secretary even though he "forgot" to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for four years while he worked for the International Monetary Fund. One begins to detect a theme.
Over the weekend, meanwhile, we noticed this story in the Washington Post:
D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) has again failed to file his tax returns.
The former District mayor has not submitted federal or city tax forms for 2007--the second instance in which he has not filed required returns while on probation for tax offenses, said two sources familiar with the situation.
Two years ago, federal prosecutors failed to convince a federal judge that Barry should be jailed for violating the terms of his probation, which was ordered in 2006, because he did not file 2005 tax returns.
Like everyone else, we immediately thought that Barry must be angling for a position in the administration. McClatchy Newspapers report that the president "has yet to nominate a new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy." Coincidence?
Questioning the Obama Administration's Patriotism
"Biden Calls Paying Higher Taxes a Patriotic Act"--headline, MSNBC.com, Sept. 18, 2008
Plus Ça Change
"The Obama administration is telling the Pentagon and gay-rights advocates that it will have to study the implications for national security and enlist more support in Congress before trying to overturn the so-called 'don't ask, don't tell' law and allow gays to serve openly in the military," the Boston Globe reports from Washington:
They said Obama, who pledged during the campaign to overturn the law, does not want to ask lawmakers to do so until the military has completed a comprehensive assessment of the impact that such a move would have on military discipline. Then, the president hopes to be able to make a case to members of both parties that overturning the 1993 law would be in the best interest of national security.
The Globe presents this as an act of caution, noting that the president "is hoping to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration when it tried to open the ranks to gays and lesbians, only to be confronted by fierce resistance from lawmakers and commanders."
To our mind what is more significant is that, if the Globe's account is accurate, Obama is seeking the military's "comprehensive assessment" not in order to inform a policy decision but to ratify a decision he has already made. Isn't that what the Angry Left kept accusing George W. Bush of doing with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
Mad Mullahs to Obama: Drop Dead
"US President Barack Obama's offer to talk to Iran shows that America's policy of 'domination' has failed, the government spokesman said on Saturday," Agence France-Presse reports:
"This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed," Gholam Hossein Elham was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.
"Negotiation is secondary, the main issue is that there is no way but for (the United States) to change," he added.
So much for Obama's promise of negotiation without preconditions. So what's Plan B? There is a Plan B, right? Uh, anyone?
This is not an item about the Super Bowl but about the election for chairman of the Republican National Committee, which Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, won on Friday. The Associated Press plays up the racial angle: "The Republican Party chose the first black national chairman in its history Friday, just shy of three months after the nation elected a Democrat as the first African-American president." (For more on Steele, see our Weekend Interview from 2006, when he was running for Senate in Maryland.)
Can Steele help Republicans win the votes of blacks, who have shunned the GOP for 45 years? His own Senate campaign gives only very modest reason for encouragement: CNN exit polls show that he won 25% of the black vote against Ben Cardin, a person of pallor--10 points higher than Gov. Robert Ehrlich received in his unsuccessful re-election bid.
Yet although blacks are among the most loyal Democratic constituencies, they are in some ways out of place in the party. Blacks overwhelmingly favored California's Proposition 8, a position that the party not only disagrees with but finds intolerable.
National Review's Michael Franc notes a fascinating poll result on economic attitudes. Asked in general whether they prefer more government and higher taxes to less government and lower taxes, self-described liberals take more and higher, 53% to 34%. But the gap is much narrower among Democrats, just 42% to 39%:
Why? African-Americans, almost all of whom are Democrats and who presumably comprise a significant portion of the Democratic sample, favor smaller government and lower taxes by a wide margin, 53% to only 22%. White Democrats, in other words, resemble liberals in their fealty to big government while African-Americans take on a more conservative hue.
Why are blacks so overwhelmingly Democratic when many hold views that would seem to put them more in line with the stated principles of the GOP? Largely because in 1964, the GOP nominated for president a man who had voted against the Civil Rights Act. The impression has lingered that the GOP is a racist party.
Will Steele's election as RNC chairman dispel this impression? Maybe. But in the long run, Obama's election as president may do more to help Republicans win the black vote, by proving once and for all that America is no longer a racist country.
Reader Brian Kalt tells us that our Friday item on Rod Blagojevich's removal from office included a false premise: We wrote that former judge Alcee Hastings, a Democrat, was able to run for Congress because when the Senate convicted him in his impeachment trial, it did not impose the additional punishment of, in the Constitution's words, "disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States."
Nowhere does the Constitution spell out the definition of an "Office . . . under the United States," and you'd think it would include membership in Congress. But Kalt argues, fairly convincingly, that you'd be wrong. He discusses it at length in the comments on this page, but to sum up:
Article I, Section 6 of the constitution stipulates that "no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office." If membership in either house is an "Office under the United States," this passage, taken literally, would preclude any congressman from serving as a congressman.
Perhaps this was just a drafting error and the framers meant to write, "holding any other office." But Article II, Section 1, describing the Electoral College, includes the following stipulation: "No Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector." This seems to make clear that the Constitution distinguishes between congressmen on the one hand and people "holding an Office . . . under the United States" on the other.
Life Imitates the Onion
* "Obama's Hillbilly Half-Brother Threatening to Derail Campaign"--headline, Onion, Aug. 13, 2008
* "The half-brother of Barack Obama has been arrested in Kenya for possession of marijuana and resisting arrest, writes Sarah Baxter. George Obama, 26, will appear in court in Nairobi tomorrow. Police claim he was found with one joint."--Sunday Times (London), Feb. 1, 2009
We Blame Global Warming
"Punxutawney Phil Sees Shadow, Winter to Continue"--headline, Associated Press, Feb. 2
A Sure Way to Kill the Stimulus
"Senate GOP Leader: Strip and Refocus Stimulus Bill"--headline, Associated Press, Feb. 1
'You Shall Not Crucify Mankind Upon a Cross of Gold'
"Gov to Tycoons: Take Tax Gripes to Silver"--headline, New York Post, Feb. 2
"Neurosurgeon Blasts New Milford Hospital"--headline, News-Times (Danbury, Conn.), Feb. 2
When Psychiatrists Become Addicts
"UN Says Afghan Opium Crop to Shrink"--headline, Associated Press, Feb. 1
Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis
* "AP Exclusive: Bad Peanuts Found Before Outbreak"--headline, Associated Press, Jan. 30
* "Bad Bank Option Gains Strength"--headline, Globe and Mail (Toronto), Jan. 29
* "2 Mr. Peanut Banks"--for sale on eBay, bidding ends Feb. 3
'Back Then, I Stopped Eating Liverwurst and Margarine Too'
"Peanut Product Recalls Spread Fast"--headline, USA Today, Feb. 2
He Should Get a Room Instead
"Man Who Had Sex at Alamo Gets Life"--headline, San Antonio Express-News, Jan. 30
Life Ain't Easy for a Boy Named Sue
"Juliette Man Defends Home From Invasion"--headline, Telegraph (Macon, Ga.), Jan. 29
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
"Pa. Appeals Court Says Owners Can Shoot Dogs, Cats"--headline, Associated Press, Jan. 30
Roly Poly Smith Heads
"Smith Heads Hall of Fame Class"--headline, Washington Post, Feb. 1
Even More Pleasant to Relax and Not Worry About It
"Pleasant to Consider Levy for May 5 Ballot"--headline, Marion (Ohio) Star, Feb. 2
Someone Set Up Us the Bomb
"Obama to Outline Economic Strategic Soon"--headline, Associated Press, Jan. 31
Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control
* "Global Court Starts With a Fumble. Warlord Grins."--headline, Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 30
* "Gluttony and Strippers Reign at Philly Wing Bowl"--headline, Associated Press, Jan. 30
* "Millions Hit by Google 'Breakdown' "--headline, Sunday Telegraph (London), Feb. 1
* "Porn Flashes Across TVs in Tucson During Super Bowl"--headline, CNN.com, Feb. 2
* " 'Putrid' Peanuts, Soldier Suicides and the Octupulets' [sic] Six Siblings"--headline, New York Times, Jan. 30
News of the Tautological
* "Consumers in U.S. Increase Savings While Spending Less"--headline, New York Times, Feb. 2
* "Leopard Spotted in Residential Area"--headline, Times of India, Feb. 2
Breaking News From 1930
"2009 Academic Decathlon Season Begins Without Taft"--headline, Los Angeles Daily News, Feb. 1
News You Can Use
* "Dog Owners More Likely to Share Germs With Pets by Not Washing Hands Than by Sleeping With Dog"--headline, Kansas State University press release, Jan. 30
* "Earthquake Insurance Unnecessary in Rock-Solid Illinois"--headline, Chicago Tribune, Feb. 2
* "In Salmonella Scare, Look Closely for Hidden Nuts"--headline, Associated Press, Jan. 30
* "Grow Your Own Eggs and Sperm"--headline, Technology Review, Feb. 2
Bottom Stories of the Day
* "City: Most Secondary Streets Cleared of Snow"--headline, Indianapolis Star, Jan. 30
* "States Fail in Latest Prairie Dog Report Card"--headline, Associated Press, Feb. 1
* "More Togetherness Now for Bill and Melinda Gates"--headline, Associated Press, Feb. 1
We Blame George W. Bush
The New York Times has the latest horror story from Baghdad:
Iraqis voted on Saturday for local representatives, on an almost violence-free election day aimed at creating provincial councils that more closely represent Iraq's ethnic, sectarian and tribal balance. By nightfall, there were no confirmed deaths, and children played soccer on closed-off streets in a generally joyous atmosphere.
How come the Iraqis get to vote? Didn't they attack us on 9/11? Or they had nothing to do with 9/11? Whatever, one or the other. Either way, this is all George W. Bush's fault. Damn him!
Wall Street Journal
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