On the heels of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama’s second formal appointment—former Sen. Tom Daschle for secretary of health and human services—appears to be another tilt to the neocons. The New York Times Nov. 20 notes potential conflicts of interest related to his work for the Mayo Clinic. But we recall his comments as Senate majority leader in which he advocated “regime change”—and not for Iraq, but for Palestine. And not against Hamas, but against Fatah and Arafat. We noted his extremist comments to Fox News interviewer Tony Snow in June 2002:
Daschle: I do think that it is important for us to be pushing for a regime change, speaking of that, in Palestine as well—in the Palestinian movement. And I think it is critical that we get help from our Arab allies. We’ve got to find somebody who can make decisions on a more constructive basis than what we’ve seen from Mr. Arafat.
Snow: Do you think our Arab allies are as fed up with Yasser Arafat as President Bush seems to be?
Daschle: Privately, Tony, they tell you they are. They are very concerned about the direction and the lack of leadership and the concern that they’ve got for the direction that the PLO is moving today. They’d like to see more constructive leadership, and our admonition to them is, “Help us get it.”
Snow: So in your opinion, Yasser Arafat needs to go?
Daschle: Well, my opinion, yes, sooner or later it has to happen.
Daschle also, of course, voted for the Iraq war. From CNN, Oct. 11, 2002:
Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle announced Thursday morning he would support Bush on Iraq, saying it is important for the country “to speak with one voice at this critical moment.”
Daschle, D-South Dakota, said the threat of Iraq’s weapons programs “may not be imminent. But it is real. It is growing. And it cannot be ignored.”
Admittedly, Daschle will have little opportunity to bring these views to bear in his new post. We can only hope that Obama put him there to placate the neocons—and keep him out of the way.