I heard that former Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) is being considered for a cabinet level position in the new administration. He is thought to be the next Secretary for Health and Human Services.
Here is an editorial I wrote back in July 2001 (slightly edited) originally posted on the Catholic Online Forum:
Gladiator, Daschle and the leash
In the evening, after a long day of cyber-pastoral work, I like to settle into a comfortable chair and watch a movie, something serious but soothing, like Gladiator, or other blood sports such as cable news and baseball.
This week we witnessed the President of the United States going to the G8 meeting. Great sport that, especially if you are a protester… or Senator Tom Daschle, of South Dakota.
As President Bush stepped off the airplane, the Democrat Senate Majority Leader was slipping a few finely whetted daggers into the absent Chief Executive’s back.
Foul play, that. I am reminded of how the evil Emperor Commodus in the aforementioned film slipped a stiletto into the restrained Maximus’ side before their supposedly fair duel.
Senator Daschle has been on the news a great deal of late. And every time I see him, I can’t help but think about what a man of his convictions he truly is.
For example, I think of the time when Daschle, purportedly Catholic, came to the heel of the Bishop of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Go back to 1998. There was a GOP backed bill before the Senate which intended to ban the use of the procedure called "partial-birth" abortion except when a woman risks death by continuing a pregnancy.
Daschle, who supports abortion and indeed partial-birth infanticide, eventually changed his position and voted in favor of the ban. Immediately after the vote, the oh-so-brave Senator excoriated the Roman Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Robert Carlson in particular, on the floor of the Senate.
Daschle said, "Their harsh rhetoric and vitriolic characterizations, usually more identified with the radical right than with thoughtful religious leadership, proved to be a consequential impediment to the decision I have made today."
Daschle might have been practicing the cuts he would later use on the absent President Bush.
I think we can reconstruct with some certainty what happened.
Pretty clearly, Bishop Carlson had been dialoguing with the errant Senatorial sheep for some time. Eventually it came down to a choice: vote like a Catholic or be denounced publicly. Dare we hope that the Bishop promised excommunication? I do.
At any rate, Daschle was up for re-election the next year. Hmmmm….
This would explain why our hero blasted His Excellency on the floor of the Senate, where Bishop Carlson could not respond. This would explain why some of Daschle’s colleagues were perplexed at his decision.
Daschle had tried to propose his own amendments to the bill which would have banned abortions of "viable" babies who could live outside the womb on their own (unless of course the woman’s health…. blah blah blah…). But then the pro-baby-death President Clinton was vetoing anything even slightly resembling a restriction of any kind of abortion at all that came within reach.
So, Daschle’s efforts at a compromise were really no efforts at all. As a matter of fact, Bishop Carlson and other pro-lifers regarded Daschle’s effort as "phony".
Even the president of Planned Parenthood was puzzled at his midstream switch. "If he believed in his own bill, why in the world did he vote for this one?" she asked.
The GOP backed bill needed a large majority that indicated the willingness of the Senate to override an executive veto. With Daschle’s favorable vote, the ban passed 64-36, three short of the 67 needed to override the veto Clinton was sure to hurl down upon it.
The Senator could have voted against the bill: if it passed he knew Clinton would veto it and there would not be enough votes to overturn the veto!
In an interview, Bishop Carlson said it was "unfortunate that the senator has … labeled my actions as those of the radical right." He went on to say, "While I am pleased with the ultimate vote … it still causes me concern that the senator has difficulty voting against a procedure described by some of his pro-choice Democratic colleagues as much closer to infanticide than abortion."
His Excellency explained further that South Dakota has laws identical to the federal bill." So, "I have put some pressure on him because I am concerned about the way he votes," the bishop said.
You would think that the Senator representing South Dakota, which has laws like the bill in question, would be willing to vote according to the will of his own constituency.
So, what happened?
The bishop whistled and Daschle came to heel.
When faced with defending his convictions, Daschle caved in completely.
He should have been able in good conscience to vote as a Catholic believer should.
But then, not believing as a Catholic should, he then went against his own non-Catholic convictions.
He knew that the Catholic bishop indeed would stand upon his convictions during the senate race the following year.
Daschle even went against the conviction of the people in his home state who elected him. So, the senator caved and then used his congressional bully pulpit to blast his bishop.
The fact remains, however, that Daschle is capable of doing anything, to anyone, anywhere for his own selfish reasons.
God bless the Bishop of Sioux Falls for helping us to see that.