Dec. 15, 2004

Ditto, Tom...

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle says goodbye.

Ditto, Tom ...

Defeated and now former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said goodbye to the U.S. Senate and Washington D.C. today, stating “...I feel good walking out of these doors” to which IPW can only say: Ditto!

Daschle made his remark during an interview with NBC’s Jamie Gangel [LINK], excerpted below:

“It's not that it's hard to talk about it, it's only that I have made such a determination not to go through the ‘what ifs’ and all of the questions that necessarily entail the thoughtful discussion of the strategy and everything else,” says Daschle.

The bad news came at about 3:30 a.m.

Jamie Gangel: How did you handle it?

Tom Daschle: Well, I just called my family around and I just said, “This isn't going to happen. I just want you all to … think of the positives.”

Gangel: At any time during all of this did you get emotional?

Daschle: I think we were all emotional. I don't know that I ever lost my composure if that's what you're asking. But no … over the years, I guess I feel like one of the things that I've been able to acquire is a pretty good discipline.

That discipline also got Daschle through his farewell address on the Senate floor.

Daschle: It was a very poignant day filled with emotion. So many different thoughts went through your mind — can I get through it all and keep my composure....

Gangel: In the end, your colleagues came up, hugged [and] shook hands. Were there any words of advice or condolence that day that stuck with you?

Daschle: I think what mattered the most was to hear a colleague of yours say, “I love you.” You know, it's not something you hear from a colleague all that often. But it melts you.

Gangel: Particular senator who said that?

Daschle: Oh, I don't want to embarrass anybody. [Laughter] I don't know what the tabloids would say if something like that got out.

Daschle does want to talk about his Senate career, which he sums up with a football analogy.

Daschle: I find myself saying that I always wanted to be an offensive quarterback.  But I turned out as a defensive lineman instead.

Gangel: Meaning?

Daschle: Meaning that I have really worked largely in my public life preventing what I consider to be ill-advised things from becoming law. 

Daschle's critics have said that made him an obstructionist and, ironically, used it to help defeat him. But Daschle says he is proud that he stood up to the Republican White House.

Daschle says, “They call it obstructionism.  But I call it the noise of democracy. The noise of democracy, in my view, is something that ought to be protected and celebrated.”

And remarkably, despite the White House-led battle to defeat him, Daschle bears no grudge against President Bush.

Gangel: Do you blame him for your loss?

Daschle: No, not at all.

But what does trouble Daschle are charges that the Democratic Party is “out of touch.”

Daschle: I think it's unfair, Jamie. One, I think that they did a better job of organizing.  We were very, very good, but so were they. Two, I think it was a very nasty, vindictive, negative campaign that worked in their case. I think that's unfortunate. I [also] think that there's a concern about security in this country, and the people, all things considered, generally feel a little bit more comfortable with the incumbent than they do with the opposition. 

Gangel: You are known for championing so many causes: health care, Native American rights, agriculture, and veterans’ rights. Do you have a proudest moment?

Daschle: I think the proudest moment are those times when I actually had people come up to me and [say], “You saved my life” [or] “You changed my life.”                        

Gangel: In the end, what do you hope people will remember about your time in office?

Daschle: I hope that they remember that I was fair and that I reflected the great people of my state in the most favorable light I possibly could — that was my goal. But I feel good walking out of these doors.

Daschle says he will take some time off to decide what to do next but hopes to return to public service in some way. He says a true politician does not rule out a possible future run for office.





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