Dems bid a sad farewell to Daschle

Where have you gone, Tom Daschle? John Kerry turns his lonely eyes to you.

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 3, 2009 9:00PM (EST)

Democrats in Washington may understand why Tom Daschle had to withdraw his nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services, but that doesn't mean they wanted to see him go.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, for one, repeatedly emphasized during his press briefing Tuesday that the decision to withdraw was Daschle's, and not President Obama's. "I don't know how much more clear I could be. The decision was Senator Daschle's," Gibbs finally said. "I don't know how much more clearly I can say the word 'no.'"

And some of the former Senate majority leader's old colleagues are still standing behind him. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) released a statement in which he said:

I wish Tom Daschle had not decided to withdraw his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services. While Tom's decision is a reminder of his loyalty to President Obama and his determination not to be a distraction, this was no ordinary appointment and today is not a good day for the cause of health care reform... Tom made it very clear he'd made a mistake and he took responsibility for it. I believe that when the smoke clears and the frenzy has ended, no one will believe that this unwitting mistake should have erased thirty years of selfless public service and remarkable legislative skill and expertise on health care. I know Tom Daschle well. I know his integrity and I respect his heart for this cause, and I know Tom will find other ways to contribute to this central mission.

Current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he would have respected any decision Daschle made regarding his future, but he expressed his regret for what had happened. "As everyone knows, Senator Daschle is like a brother to me. And he made the decision personally to withdraw. I support his decision," Reid said. "I'm terribly disappointed that Senator Daschle is not moving forward. But that doesn't take away from his ability that he had, and the great leader he was for us in the Senate."

And Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), no great friend of Daschle's, said he was "stunned" by the decision, and called it "tragic." He also told reporters he believed Daschle had the votes to be confirmed.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Barack Obama Harry Reid John F. Kerry D-mass.