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.

Gun rights and wrongs

This time, the stories are saying, it’s different.

This latest massacre in America has some politicians vowing to tighten rules on access to assault rifles, automatic weapons and clips with multiple rounds. The horror of Friday morning in Newtown, Conn., has awakened those who feel the country is too soaked in blood, with far too many guns available to flawed, dangerous people.

Look at last week — two victims killed, followed by the suicide of the shooter, at the Clackamas Town Center in the suddenly ironically named Happy Valley, Ore. That dominated headlines for a few days, before 28 died in Newtown. Add in the 50 rounds fired in a Newport Beach, Calif., mall parking lot, the two Topeka, Kan., police officers shot and killed Monday … the deadly count keeps adding up.

But while those who are concerned about guns promise action, and President Obama said he will do all he can to change things during his emotional speech in Newtown Sunday night, there is sure to be considerable opposition.

The people who oppose restrictions claim the Second Amendment prohibits government restrictions on their firepower. And they also feel safer with guns in their homes, vehicles, and increasingly, strapped to their sides in public.

The old argument has been renewed: Too many guns cause death and destruction vs. guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Will there be a new outcome to this debate? Will Obama and Congress reduce the volume and kind of guns in this land? And if they do, will we be safer?

Romney picks Ryan

Mitt Romney is tired of letting the Olympics and Barack Obama set the news. He is breaking some news and making headlines early Saturday.

Romney will announce his running mate in a few hours. All signs point to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the conservative favorite and the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Since I spoke with John Thune today as he headed to Murdo to visit his father and some friends, it’s safe to say the South Dakota senator didn’t get it.

Thune said Romney should make a “bold” selection. Is that Ryan, who wants to alter the Medicare process, because, he says, he wants to save it from going broke?

He also promises to work toward a balanced budget. He’s hot, he’s outspoken and he’s a newsmaker. The headlines will be all GOP for a few days, so Romney has accomplished that.

But Ryan is also a lightning rod. The Democrats will come at him for his unabashed conservative, new GOP views. Ryan is well-spoken, so it should be interesting to watch.

So now we now the teams: Romney-Ryan vs. Obama-Biden. On to the conventions.

Thune is talking with the Romney team

Sen. John Thune keeps saying he expects to be a senator in 2013.

However …

Thune said Monday that he is talking with Romney’s campaign team. He told The Hill that he is in contact with the people who are running the show.

“In an interview with The Hill, Thune acknowledged he’s been to Boston to meet Romney’s senior advisers and has met Beth Myers, who is leading the search for the vice presidential nominee.

“ ‘I met her but it wasn’t a meeting about what you think it’s about,’ he said.”

Hmmm. So they wanted to ask him about what exactly?

Thune didn’t say he is formally being vetted, but it appears he is still on the list. It figures, since he is a good fit.

Thune is a conservative darling, a supporter of Romney since last year and a talented politician and campaigner. There is little doubt he would be a solid choice, and popular with the right.

Romney needs to energize the GOP base to win in November and Thune would help with that. Will he join the ticket?

Thune said he would be willing to serve as a feisty attack dog in the campaign, the typical role of a VP candidate.

“I’m not somebody whose disposition and temperament is hostile. But once somebody throws the first punch, I’m all in,” he told The Hill.

Here’s the stories out today:



Well, not that focused …

There are no reports so far of Speaker John Boehner crying over the somewhat surprising decision by the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare.

But the famously weep-happy Boehner has changed his tune on what is important to Republicans in Congress. They may have lost in the high court, but they feel widespread public opposition to the sweeping health care law will lead them to victory in November.

Note the changes in what Boehner says the GOP will do in the meantime.

House Republicans will work hard on creating jobs and fixing the economy, he said Wednesday, the day before The Decision.

“… here in the House, House Republicans are going to continue to stay focused on jobs and the economy, which is what we’ve done the last 18 months.”

Well, thing change. Here’s what he said after the Supremes made their decision known:

“You know, I think the real outcome of today’s decision is to strengthen our resolve to make sure that this law is in fact repealed,” Boehner said Thursday. “We’re going to work every single day between now and Election Day, and the American people then will get an opportunity to make their decision on Election Day.”

Maybe they can do both. Or perhaps neither will happen.

If that happens, it’s a crying shame for someone.