Obama not alone in Cabinet woes

Despite recent high-profile withdrawals, President Obama's selections haven't fared much worse than his predecessors' did.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Published February 3, 2009 10:15PM (EST)

Think your day is going badly? Could be worse -- you could be one of President Obama's high-level nominees.

Earlier today, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination to become secretary of Health and Human Services due to problems with his taxes. Daschle's withdrawal came just a short time after Nancy Killefer, Obama's selection to be chief performance officer, wrote a letter to the president withdrawing herself from consideration because of tax problems as well. And they're just following New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who dropped out of consideration to be Commerce secretary because of a federal investigation into possible pay-for-play.

Obviously, none of these withdrawals have reflected favorably on either the new Obama administration or the administration's vetting process. But this is hardly the first time in recent history a president has faced some problems with his cabinet appointments.

In 2000, George W. Bush's nominee for Labor secretary, Linda Chavez, had to withdraw when it was discovered that she had given haven to illegal immigrants. Bush suffered further embarrassment in 2004 when Bernard Kerik withdrew his nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security due to a variety of financial and ethical concerns.

In 1993, Bill Clinton had an especially difficult time finding an attorney general who hadn't hired an illegal immigrant to be her nanny. Zoë Baird, the first woman Clinton nominated to be attorney general, withdrew because of the immigration status of her babysitter. Second choice Kimba Wood withdrew for the same reason. Clinton also withdrew the nomination of his choice for assistant attorney general, Lani Guinier, because he deemed her views on the empowerment of African Americans too radical.


Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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