Former Sen. Daschle (D-SD) as Sec. of Health and Human Services?

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.

Brave, no?

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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Christopher Mandzok says:

    Knowing the strength of the Ever Virgin Mary, pray for wayward Catholic Democrats should be encouraged. I pray weekly that they change their stance and speak strongly against abortion. I am perplexed by their continuing position regaring the right to abortion. For if they were to change their position, they would win every election hands down. Abortion is the only subject for which so many vote Republican.

  2. EJ says:

    Unreal. How are true “ardent, practicing” Catholics (to paraphrase Pelosi) supposed to take the current lineup of “Catholic” cowards that we all will be subjected to for at least the next four years? It seems to be, at best, a declaration of war on the part of the Obama “transition team,” given last week’s USCCB statement. I say to arms then, there’s alot of work to be done if the pro-life cause is to take back Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012.

  3. RANCHER says:

    I agree with EJ. I think what we are seeing and will continue to see is an “in your face Catholic Church” series of appointments and actions by the elitist Obama. He does not like criticism or opposition and as his record reflects he will “take out” the opposition through any means available to him. If he appoints a number of so-called Catholics who all oppose real Church teaching in the same way on the same subjects (abortion being the most obvious) he can then, a-la-Clinton, “redefine” Church teaching. Certainly if the great Obama, he who knows all, tells the majority of voting Catholics that all of the Catholics in his cabinet have decided that abortion is OK those voting Catholics will again cast their ballots for him in 2012. This is step one in what will prove to be an active persecution of the Church by the coming administration.

  4. So much for Obama’s promise of change. Looks like the same old suspects will be doing the same old thing.

  5. canon1753 says:

    When the usually lighthearted RP at whispers titles this “Is this War?” The jig is up and I suspect that we will see Rancher’s comments above as the reality. I think within this administration much of the Catholic infrastructure (Hospitals, Schools, Catholic Charities etc.) will be forced out of existence due to the proabortion and pro- at least federal recognition- of civil unions and gay marriage. That will be Obama’s thanks to the Catholics who elected him….

  6. Jordanes says:

    My wife had an . . . interesting . . . dream last night. She said that in her dream somebody was predicting there was going to be a major earthquake. Then at some kind of political gathering, Barack Obama appeared to speak. My wife and the group she was with began to pray Hail Marys. The earthquake hit and large cracks opened up in the ground, but after the shaking was done the cracks in the ground were found to have veered around the group who had been praying during the Obamablather.

    I don’t know what, if anything, that means, except I know that God, and Our Lady, will see us through the troubles and persecution that we are about to face due to the evil that Obama wants to accomplish. I’m not sure I needed a dream to tell me that, but perhaps my wife did.

  7. Chris says:

    Tom Daschle will pose yet another problem for Archbishop Wuerl.

    Now, along with Nancy Pelosi who spends some Sundays here in D.C., we’ll have Daschle and Joe Biden going to Mass in the Capital and, I’m sure, doing so at the Basilica where they can be seen.

    Any chance these pro-abortion “Catholics” will be denied Communion? Don’t hold your breath.

    His first act will be to help Obama reinstate overseas abotion money, promote the day after abortion pill, etc.

    And then step up to the invisible altar rail with no obstruction …

  8. TJM says:

    I wonder if the Catholic supporters of Obama are feeling duped? Tom

  9. vox borealis says:


    No, because most (all) of them knew the deal all along.

  10. Robert says:

    Self righteous Catholics… the lot of you… no different then the Pharisees.

    Oh by the way, yes I am Catholic and I’ll do you the favor. May God have mercy on my soul.

    Oh, the change is about policy not people and unless you know the future (as I am sure you think you do) then. . . well there is no ‘changing’ you I suppose.

    Yes, my email is real.

  11. Chris says:

    So, let me take a shot at this without going down the obvious road with Robert.

    “Oh, the change is about policy and not people.”

    So, as a Catholic, what policy change are you in favor of? Do you support his social policy agenda?

    I really am facinated and eager to hear.

  12. The bishops should give the name of ONE pro-choice policician they have ‘dialoged’ into becoming prolife. The late Democatic governor of New York did change when Cardinal Cooke who made an honest effort to pursuade him though dialogue failed.The Cardinal told him not to receive communion.The Governor then not only became prolife but helped to found Democrats for Life.We should not forget the pro-choice Republicans eg.the Governor of California (and his selfstyled ‘cafeteria catholic wife).Above all pray.If the founder of NARAL ,abortionist Dr.Bernard Nathanson can change,anyone can.

  13. chironomo says:


    How would your distinction of a “self-righteous Catholic” be different from simply a “Catholic”…. is there anything being said here in terms of the issues that you disagree with that is not very clearly a part of the Catholic Church’s teachings? Do you think that the Bishops should not criticize these politicians? Do you believe they should continue to be able to call themselves “devout, practicing Catholics”? I don’t see how that’s possible… the church’s teachings are not as “nuanced” as campaign rhetoric is.

    On the political issue…Obama’s OWN WORDS said that there needed to be a “change in the people who run Washington” and that “lobbyists will have NO PLACE at the table in my administration”. And so he appoints to cabinet positions (those who run Washington) the same people who ran it during the Clinton administration, many of whom have served as lobbyists since that time. To try and deny the hypocrisy just makes one look foolish and uncritical.

  14. Chris says:

    Chironomo makes great points.

    And let’s not forget — these politicians are heretics.

    They’re not ignorant folks who have never been told the truth and are pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marriage, etc. because they don’t know better. As Fr. McAfee points out, they know the taught truths and publicly announce they disagree with them. They reject the truth and therefore are heretics.

    I used to throw the word heretic around much too loosely in the past. I would say that about anyone who disagreed with the Church’s dogma. But that isn’t true when ignorance is a factor. But ignorance is not a factor with Shriver, Daschle, Pelosi, Biden.

    They just know better than the Church.

  15. RANCHER says:

    If the Bishops fail to take firm and public action (offering to dialogue just doesn’t cut it) against this growing list of so-called Catholic politicians in prominent positions they risk the loss of ANY credibility they may have with the faithful who do adhere to Catholic teaching. As noted in an earlier post this is becoming an “in your face Catholic Church” endeavor on the part of Mr. hope and change (not!) Hopefully we as the U S Catholic Church are up to the challenge.

  16. Chris says:

    Here’s something to ponder:

    All we hear from Obama is “hope.”

    All we hear from the Vatican is “love” and “hope” and “love hope” and “hope for love” …

    While I think I know the answer, and it’s been happening ever since the Council, does the nothingness that comes from the Vatican and our prelates lead directly to someone like Obama getting elected? And will even the “conservative” bishops who spoke out on abortion ever seem that their modernism is leading to this?

  17. priest up north says:


    While I acknowledge that we must be vigilant, not becoming self-righteous, truly is it charitable to allow Senator Daschle, Rep. Pelosi, and the like to “eat and drink onto their own condemnation,” or to call them out, tell them not only that their position is wrong, but that they put their own soul in peril of eternal damnation through their unrepentant promotion of the evil of abortion. Yes, we need change: change of hearts…for which we pray for the Clinton-esque Obama appointees and of course, the president-elect himself.

  18. Ken says:

    Father McAfee makes the best point here. With respect to then-Leader Daschle in the Senate, his bishop in South Dakota did not “dialogue” with him in order to get the senator to finally vote for a ban on partial-birth abortion; rather, he threatened him.

    It’s time to examine what “charity” (and let’s not translate “caritas” to “love” anymore) is all about. Sometimes it means telling someone “you do this, and you’re grounded.”

  19. fra paolo says:

    Sometimes I think this blog should be renamed What Do Republicans Really Say?

    I look forward to it monitoring Republican Congressional Catholics’ voting on social issues in relation to encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum. Or Laborem Exercens which calls for a minimum wage sufficient to allow a parent to support spouse and family.

    “Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future.”

    Perhaps if we had more of that, we might have less demand for abortions. And without a demand for abortions, it would be easier to construct a coalition to support a Catholic social agenda that abolished the death penalty, abolished abortion and ensured a fair wage for workers.

    If you’re not going to embrace the whole social agenda, you’re going to look partisan.

  20. Michael J says:


    Just visited your blog. If you’re the same Paul Brewer who worked in publishing for twenty-four years, mostly on military, naval or aviation topics, including time at Conway Maritime Press and Putnam Aeronautical Books, what’s the “fra” all about. Does it mean something different in canada?

  21. fra paolo says:

    what’s the “fra” all about

    A colleague, observing my pious outlook (highly unusual in the hedonistic world of London media) and a love of the paintings of Fra Angelico, gave me the nickname ‘Fra Paolo’ at work one day. I then began to use it (lower-case, since it wasn’t official) as an internet moniker, and have done so for many years now.

  22. RBrown says:

    I look forward to it monitoring Republican Congressional Catholics’ voting on social issues in relation to encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum. Or Laborem Exercens which calls for a minimum wage sufficient to allow a parent to support spouse and family.

    I took a seminar at the Angelicum on Laborem Exercens, and I have to say I was, surprisingly, not impressed with the document (neither was the German prof who taught the seminar). I thought it was valid for, say, a coal miner, but didn’t seem to understand the nature of labor in a 20th century economy. It seemed too much based on the diametric opposition between labor and capital that is found in Marx.

    It is also my opinion (and the opinion of many theologians) that the authors of the document didn’t understand fundamental economics. For them, economics is a zero sum game–they have no concept of the multiplier effect.

    BTW, you might be interested to know that Centissimus Annus was the first Papal document that said the problem is not one of distribution but rather of productivity.

    “Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future.”

    Perhaps if we had more of that, we might have less demand for abortions. And without a demand for abortions, it would be easier to construct a coalition to support a Catholic social agenda that abolished the death penalty, abolished abortion and ensured a fair wage for workers.

    The approach you seem to advocate is unjust, simply because it violates the equal pay for equal work principle.

    If you’re not going to embrace the whole social agenda, you’re going to look partisan.
    Comment by fra paolo

    See above.

  23. Rancher says:

    fra paolo
    You are assuming (bad word) that the majority of those who post here are Republican and you may be correct. I am one who generally, though not always, votes for Republican candidates. An important point however is that my politics do not define my morality. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. I will not vote for any politician, regardless of party, whose position(s) on life issues are in opposition to Church teaching. However, as very few candidates for any office hold positions that are 100% in keeping with Catholic teaching, I will go with the one who is closest. If “closest” is not consistent enough with Catholic teaching for my (hopefully) well formed conscience to support then I either do not vote for that office or (as I did in the Presidential primaries) I write in a name. I wonder what our registrar of voters thought of my choice of Jesus Christ for President.

    The truth of the matter is that in the USA, and this is admittedly a generalization, Republican positions are usually much closer to Church teaching than the position of Democrats. That has been true, in recent years, on the issues of: abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and same sex marriage.

    Were the platforms of the two major U S parties to flip flop (not likely in what realistically will be my lifetime) I would change my political affiliation and I suspect many who post here would as well.

    Keep in mind that for most who post here there are “bottom lines” which we won’t deviate from. That means the cart will not come before the horse or, put another way, our morality drives our politics not the reverse of that.

  24. fra paolo says:

    For RBrown
    ‘A workman’s wages should be sufficient to enable him to support himself, his wife and his children. “If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice”.25

    ‘Would that these words, written at a time when what has been called “unbridled capitalism” was pressing forward, should not have to be repeated today with the same severity.’

    Centesimus Annus, 9

    ‘Furthermore, society and the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings. This requires a continuous effort to improve workers’ training and capability so that their work will be more skilled and productive, as well as careful controls and adequate legislative measures to block shameful forms of exploitation, especially to the disadvantage of the most vulnerable workers, of immigrants and of those on the margins of society. The role of trade unions in negotiating minimum salaries and working conditions is decisive in this area.’

    Centesimus Annus, 15

    I’d give page references to my copy, but it’s in England and I’m in Canada.

    As for Rancher, I don’t care who people vote for. I suspect one’s view of this blog will be somewhat skewed by it being an election year. Let’s just say I haven’t seen any criticism of Susan Collins around here.

  25. RBrown says:

    Fra Paolo,

    The texts you cited don’t contradict what I said, which was:

    1. Paying someone according to need rather than the work done is unjust.

    And I would add that the principle of paying a wage sufficient to support a family is routinely violated by the Church in the US.

    2. The authors of Laborem Exercens and other documents tend to think of economics as a zero sum game. This changed a bit in:

    3. Centissimus annus, which was the first document to note the role played by lack of production in poverty.

  26. RBrown says:

    It should read: Centesimus Annus, not Centissimus.

    Mea Culpa

  27. Michael J says:

    fra paolo,

    I don’t think you’ll find any disagreement here on the definition of a just wage, the moral obligations of an employer to pay a just wage or that the state has a role in ensuring that employers justly pay their employees.

    Instead, the major disagreement will be how one measures “sufficient” and how the state should act to ensure that sufficient wages are paid.

    You’ve indirectly hinted that you believe that the democratic party supports a just wage and that the republican party does not. How do you know? If you were the emperor of the US, how would you determin if a particular wage paid by a particular employer to a particular employee is just? A grocery store cashier in Cleveland Ohio (according to gets paid about $25 K per year. Is this just?

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