The Obama administration is taking a pounding today on the ethics front. This afternoon White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confronted questions about the president’s ethics policy after former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle’s decision came on the heels of a withdrawal earlier today by Nancy Killefer for chief White House performance officer, also because of tax issues.
“I think the president would say to you that he didn’t believe we’d change the way Washington has worked the past three decades in the first two weeks of this administration,” Gibbs said, pointing to the administration’s executive order on ethics, which he called “unprecedented” and “the strongest ethics bill in the history of this country.”
Gibbs specifically cited the administration’s revolving door ban, which would forbid any official leaving the administration from lobbying former colleagues for the remainder of President Obama’s term in office.
Fair enough. But trying to untangle the web of Washington influence could complicate some of the Obama administration’s biggest plans: Daschle, for instance, was thought likely to be a key architect of the administration’s anticipated health care reform plan. Now it’s unclear what role, if any, he will play in pushing that goal forward.