The Daschle Dash

Tom Daschle, President Barack Obama’s nominee for health secretary, has withdrawn his candidacy after being questioned about his late payment of more than $120,000 in taxes.

In a letter released Monday, Daschle said he was “deeply embarrassed” and would answer any questions that a Senate panel had about his taxes.

He said President Barack Obama’s transition team pointed out the errors during a vetting process for the Cabinet position. Daschle said mistakes in his previous three years’ returns included taxes on the use of a car service and charitable donations that were filed without proper documentation.

“Tom made a mistake, which he has openly acknowledged,” Obama said in a statement. “He has not excused it, nor do I.

“But that mistake, and this decision, cannot diminish the many contributions Tom has made to this country, from his years in the military to his decades of public service,” the president added.

“But if 30 years of exposure to the challenges inherent in our system has taught me anything, it has taught me that this work will require a leader who can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction,” Daschle said in a statement. “Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction. The focus of Congress should be on the urgent business of moving the President’s economic agenda forward, including affordable health care for every American.”

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