Daschle says no to chief of staff

Four years ago, Tom Daschle was very interested in formally joining the Obama administration.

Today? The thought of Daschle taking a key role in the White House is being floated, but early Friday, he told me he is not a candidate for the chief of staff job.

“Denis McDonough, who used to work with me; Ron Klain, who also worked with me; and Tom Nides, a good friend, are the men under consideration,” Daschle said in an email from Tokyo, where he is studying high-speed rail for possibly bringing such a system to the northeast in the USA.

“We should know soon,” he said. Some journalists agree with his assessment.

Daschle, who served four terms as a South Dakota congressman (1979-1987) and three as a senator (1987-2005), was President Obama’s initial choice to be secretary of Health and Human Services back in 2008-2009.

But revelations about tax problems and a preference for limos and a driver forced Daschle to drop out. The Aberdeen native with a reputation as a smart, low-key guy who used to drive himself across South Dakota and stop in every county during his tenure in Congress was seen by his critics as a privileged insider.

His life in politics and government seemed at an end, and he told me he no longer followed South Dakota politics closely. He did appear in the state a few times in 2012, speaking at the funerals of Bill Janklow and George McGovern.

But a political comeback seemed possible, at least for a short time. In the past 24 hours, The Hill posted a blog suggesting Daschle, 65, would be an ideal choice to serve as Obama’s latest chief of staff.

Obama nominated his current chief of staff, Jack Lew, to serve as secretary of the treasury on Thursday, as a typical cabinet shakeup takes place at the end of a first term.

“Daschle has enormous credibility, respect and experience throughout the upper strata of American political and business leadership. He is trusted by leading Democrats and has long-term relations of trust with a long list of leading Republicans, which will be essential to achieving major goals in the current political climate in Washington,” Brent Budowsky wrote.

The idea quickly swept across the web, but Daschle was not on board with the plan, according to Maria Recio of Planet Washington.

“Daschle is now a senior policy adviser at DLA Piper, a high-powered law firm and his wife Linda is a well-known lobbyist. Ethics rules would restrict her ability to lobby — an apparent¬†deal-killer for him to take the job,” Recio wrote.

Daschle seems happy, making a ton of money, living a life free of the stress he dealt with on a regular basis when he was the Democratic leader in the Senate. He has been mentioned as a possible chief of staff before, and didn’t take it then.

He still lunches with and advises Obama on a regular basis, and since many of his former staffers have worked in this White House, he has influence and contacts. His former chief of staff, Pete Rouse, spent three months as Obama’s chief of staff in 2010-2011, so Daschle could ask him how that worked.

But why would he want to serve as chief of staff? It’s a high-pressure job, and Obama has already plowed through four of them in his first term.

Plus, Daschle once held dreams of the presidency. When he thought of working in the White House, he pictured himself seated in the Oval Office, not serving the person in it.

However, he is still very interested in how things work, or don’t work, in Washington, as he told CNN last year. He shared an interview with his old colleague and sparring partner Trent Lott, the former Republican senator from Mississippi.¬†Which offers a chance to share this piece I wrote five years ago about the two men for my old Montana newspaper.

I doubt Daschle will serve in the White House in any capacity, but he will likely remain an influential voice in the next four years.

When I asked for a final confirmation that he was not interested in the chief of staff’s post, and it was safe to report that, his answer was succinct: “Yes,” he wrote.

3 thoughts on “Daschle says no to chief of staff

  1. A sad day when voters replaced Daschle with Thune. Look at your coverage of the town hall meeting Thune held this week in Mitchell- every frak came out of the woodwork to complain- all that Obama bashing would be better spent on solutions- I heard little solutions and more complaining at that meeting and I am glad I did not go I have better things to do than hang out with the illiterates of Mitchell !!

  2. SD made the right choice to get rid of Daschle for Thune. Thune is more in touch with SD.

    We made the wrong choice when we voted for Noem over SHS. (I voted for Noem and actively supported her). Noem has shown herself to be a hypocrite and a bomb thrower. That primary race she ran was good and positive but the general and her elected service have been purely about complaining about Obama and recycling talking points. She has not offered one constructive idea since being in congress.

    Herseth was political and so is Noem. Herseth was a fence straddler but Noem has shown herself to be no different. Noem has her talking points just as SHS but Noem recycles them and rarely breaks from party leadership. One of my biggest complaints about Noem is her lack of town halls. If any paper or individual asked Noem to give them her position on an upcoming vote she would duck and dodge and give her standard talking points. That isn’t leadership. It is exactly what doomed Herseth Sandlin. Coffee tours, closed ag meetings and round tables show Noem is not following through on exactly what we ripped Herseth for.

    Maybe Herseth wouldn’t do any better than Noem but I have a feeling Brendan Johnson would. He lives in Sioux Falls, has strong ties to this state and has been a leading attorney in our state for years.

    At the end of Thune’s career we might not see anything major from him out side of his own personal success but he will at least treat the people he serves with respect and listen to them at town halls. Noem and her mirror image Herseth don’t.

    Brendan Johnson might. In fact I think Mike Rounds, John Thune and Brendan Johnson sound like a pretty good team.

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