In one way or another, Tom Daschle has been involved in making or implementing public policy in Washington for more than three decades. A native of South Dakota, he spent five years as an aide to South Dakota Senator James Abourezk, after serving three years as an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command. In 1978, Daschle was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served four terms. In 1986, Daschle was elected to the Senate. In 1994, he became Democratic Leader. Since leaving the Senate earlier this year, Daschle has joined Alston & Bird as an adviser, and he is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Sen. Daschle joined Campus Progress on Tuesday, October 18 for a live online chat. The transcript starts below.
Maggie Brock (University of South Carolina): With the recent scandals involving Karl Rove, Tom Delay, and Bill Frist, it’s clear that there’s a need for more accountability from our public officials. What can be done to ensure this accountability and to regulate their actions?
Tom Daschle: I think that there has to be far more ethics committee oversight involving members of congress. It has gotten to be too much of a club. There should also be greater oversight of the administration by Congress through an aggressive committee process. This isn’t a matter of writing new law as much as it is enforcing the laws that already exist.
Wayne Huang (Cornell University): With a debate on spending cuts looming on the horizon, how do you think Katrina will affect next year’s budget? Will increasing anxiety over the budget deficit outweigh the necessity to invest in the Gulf coast? What should be done to ensure that the necessary social and economic reforms survive the cuts?
Tom Daschle: There is little doubt that Katirna will have transforming effects on our country and our government just as 9/11 did. What those effects will be is still to be determined. I believe the budget debate in the coming year will be one of the most important in recent history. It will put even into sharper focus the need for a social safety net versus defense spending and tax cuts. I think Democrats can win a debate involving a greater call for the safety net we once had.
John Neurohr (Ithaca College, Mechanicsburg, PA): What should be the Democrat’s position throughout the Miers confirmation hearings? Isn’t it possible that if Miers isn’t confirmed, we may get a much more hardline conservative nominee from the Bush administration?
Tom Daschle: I think it is possible that the defeat of Harriet Miers could mean a much more high profile arch conservative nominee is next. I think we ought to do all we can to ensure that the hearings are fair, complete, and are not dominated by the far right’s determination to set the agenda for the Supreme Court.
Pauline Green (Loyola University): What prompted you to support the Roberts nomination?
Tom Daschle: I believe that philopsophy alone should not dictate one’s vote on a nominee of this kind. I don’t agree with John Roberts on many things, but I admit to his professionalism, experience, and demeanor. My concern is that a Democratic President will one day regret those practices involving voting against a nominee based simply on philosophy. We may never see a progressive nomination successfully confirmed again if that were the case.
Andrew C (Dover, Delaware): Senator, I’m a recent college graduate and high school teacher. I was wondering, what do you believe is the most pressing political issue for teenage students today? Of what do they need to be fully aware before they venture out to the real world?
Tom Daschle: The most pressing political issue for teenage sutdents today is whether they will live in a country that is as free and as fair as the country of our history. I worry that those on the far right could win by default if we don’t fight for a fairer more tolerant and more socially committed society.
Tiffany Dale (George Washington University, Washington, DC): What are your thoughts on possible exit strategies in Iraq? Strategic Redeployment?
Tom Daschle: It is critical that we adopt an exit strategy in Iraq very soon. That strategy ought to take into account the need for physical, political, and security infrastructure within the country.
jrb (DWU, Mitchell, SD): Some people on the left and in the media want to lump all religious people into a monolithic group identified by people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson. How do we separate religious Americans from these people?
Tom Daschle: I think that religious Americans and especially progressive religious leaders need to be more vocal about expressing themselves on values and our faith. Oftentimes, we cede this ground to others in the conservative movement and lose the debate by default. Social justice is just as much a value based on our religious beliefs as any position taken and advanced by the far right.
Tom Daschle: Sorry I have to run. I have enjoyed the questions. Thanks a lot and let’s do it again.
Ben Adler (moderator): Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have. Thanks to Senator Daschle for stopping by to answer questions. And thank you to all our readers for submitting questions.