Ah, populism. It can sweep you into the White House with popularity unseen in ages… and it can destroy you when you try to appoint your limousine liberal hack friends when you get there. When multiple, high-profile political appointments you make are beset by serious tax problems, one of which involves a limousine driver and a defense of “but I’d gotten so used to being driven around…”, and then a safety net of the “clubby way” Senators treat one of their own (as this article points out) that would ensure confirmation, you're on thin ice. And for President Obama, the ice just broke.
This Daschle business ended very badly, and it just goes to show that when you play to the crowd’s financial suffering, promise sweeping reform and then turn around and appoint tax cheats and lobbyists that you stand by unwaveringly (aka business as usual in Washington), you get burned. This hurts the president quite a bit politically, and by the admission of some of his supporters in the Senate it hurts his Universal Healthcare momentum as well. It could also make any attempt on his part to raise taxes on middle class Americans, should it come to that, even more difficult. I'm not going to pretend like these setbacks upset or disappoint me. But I imagine his wounds will heal quickly, particularly after his mea culpa on NBC, a move that his unapologetic predecessor would never have made.
Still, the stimulus bill is not helping the president either now that the details are on the street and his promises of a pork-free package have proved empty, as we predicted they would (see here). GOP senators (except of course for Arlen Specter) seem to have found some backbone for the time being and are blocking some of the spending measures in the bill, such as tax breaks for Hollywood movie studios (see here). But their resistance won't go on forever, and eventually a massive bill, trimmed down only slightly, will pass the Congress and land on President Obama's desk. When he signs it, he can count on a boost in his approval ratings, which have plummeted from 80% to a paltry 60% in a matter of one week.