02.01.2009 0

Kicking Daschle While He’s Down

  • On: 02/04/2009 09:41:29
  • In: Barack Obama
  • By Carter Clews

    They say you should never kick a man when he is down. Well, not to be flippant, but I’ve never paid much attention to “they.” And the fact is, Tom Daschle is no ordinary man. The now former HHS nominee and admitted tax cheat is a bare-knuckle politician who makes former heavyweight Chuck Webner (he of “My three best punches were the choke hold, the rabbit punch and the head butt” fame) look like the Marquis de Queensbury.

    Now, please understand, I really don’t have all that big a problem with Mr. Daschle lining up phony preachers to make bogus charges against John Thune in the hotly contested 2004 Senate race. Mr. Daschle falsely claimed Mr. Thune was saying nasty things about the lovely Mrs. Daschle. And though that was a lie, at least it was all in the family.

    And I can even understand Mr. Daschle voting for higher gas taxes, higher death taxes, higher marriage taxes, higher estate taxes, higher incomes tax, higher taxes on the elderly, and even trying to impose a tax on the Internet. After all, Mr. Daschle is a card-carrying Democrat, so one would hardly expect him to believe working people could spend their own money better than he could spend it for them. And besides, he already knew he’d cheat on the taxes anyway.

    But, I do have a real serious problem with Tom Daschle quite possibly costing the lives of three good, decent doctors in a 1994 mercy-mission plane crash, so that he could do a political favor for an old buddy and rake in some additional campaign contributions. And that’s why I am more than happy to kick this five-ply, two-bit politician while he’s down on his hands and knees groping around for the next tawdry place to make an easy buck.

    Here’s how the New York Times described Mr. Daschle’s deadly pay-to-play scam in a tip-of-the-iceberg lead story on May 7, 1995:

    “Government investigators have obtained evidence that Linda H. Daschle, second in command at the Federal Aviation Administration, may have used her position to help her husband, a United States Senator, reduce safety inspections of an air-charter company owned by a family friend, Government officials have said.”

    And, here’s the rest of the sordid story.

    There is little question that South Dakota’s B&L Aviation was a bad accident waiting to happen. The Forest Service, charged with inspecting charter planes in that state, had repeatedly found B&L’s aircraft to be Gerry-rigged death traps.

    As one Forest Service inspector wrote in his report, “Not only would I not fly in B&L’s aircraft myself, I would never let my family or loved ones fly in one!” That’s from a Sixty Minutes interview Mike Wallace conducted with Forest Service aviation inspector Bill Dickson a few years after the deadly B&L crash that killed the three doctors on their way to provide free medical care on a South Dakota Indian reservation.

    In 1994, Mr. Dickson had personally refused to approve 10 of B&L’s 14 planes for take-off. Why? Well, here you go – straight from the Sixty Minutes transcript:

    WALLACE: You found planes with no record of propeller overhaul …

    DICKSON: Mm-hmmm.

    WALLACE: … no record of engine overhaul, an engine mount deteriorated, a fuel gauge stuck on empty, an oil leak inside the fire wall, and one and on.

    DICKSON: Right.

    WALLACE: Could their infraction, if you want to call them that, or their sloppiness – could – could it cause a crash, a loss of life?

    DICKSON: Sure it could.

    It could. And it did. So why were B&L’s wretched refuse aircraft allowed to remain airborne. You could very likely sum it all up two words: Tom Daschle.

    You see, Murl Bellew, the owner of B&L Aviation, was an old buddy of Tom Daschle’s. Not only that, he taught old Tom to fly. To top it all off, he made sure to stick in a little ready cash in good-buddy Tom’s campaign coffers. And – lo and behold – not only was Tom’s lovely wife, Linda, second in command at the Federal Aviation Administration; Tom, himself, of course, was a powerful United States Senator.

    So, Tom introduced a bill to eliminate Forest Service aviation inspections and pushed it through the Senate – without a hearing or one single word of debate. This despite the fact that B&L was the only company in America to complain about Forest Service inspections.

    Rep. Charlie Rose was able to stop the bill in the House. But, that didn’t stop Tom Daschle. He took his case straight to his good pal, Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy – whose department oversaw the Forest Service – and personally persuaded Mike to hogtie the Forrest Service.

    The rest is a tragic chapter in aviation history – as well as in the personal lives of the widows and orphans of the three caring doctors whose commitment to saving the lives of impoverished Indians ended up costing them their own.

    Now, in fairness, I should point out that, not unexpectedly, a government investigation declared Mr. Daschle clear of any wrongdoing whatsoever – though the National Transportation Safety Board did have to admit that, well, maybe there were some questions about the Senator’s interventions on B&L’s behalf. Of course, it was understandably difficult to get answers to those questions – since the FAA officials where Mrs. Daschle worked had conveniently ordered the destruction of documents relating to B&L Aviation.

    So, now, poor old Tom Daschle is crying in his beer because he didn’t get the high-powered HHS Secretary position he wanted in the Obama Administration. There, by the way, he would have been in charge of the oversight of such companies as HealthSouth Corp., CVS Caremark Corp., and the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, a coalition of nursing homes. All of which, I might add, were clients of Mr. Daschle’s law firm, Alston & Bird, which raked in a tidy $5.8 million between January and September of last year. Feel sick yet?

    That grunting sound you might be hearing now is me. And I have to admit, I’m loving every second of this old-fashioned butt-kicking. In fact, Tom Daschle is the kind of guy even “they” might enjoy kicking while he’s down. Personally, I’d like to boot the guy from here to eternity. And don’t feel the slightest tinge of guilt if you’d like to join me in the journey.

    Carter Clews is the Executive Editor of ALG News Bureau.

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