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Is the Obama White House already in trouble?

February 13, 2009 |  8:31 am

President Barack Obama

It's been a tough 10 days in the life of the 4-week-old Obama White House.

Tom Daschle has to withdraw as the president's pick for secretary of Health and Human Services for failing to pay more than $120,000 in taxes.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who managed to squeeze through confirmation hearings despite his own tax problems, bombs in laying out the president's new Wall Street rescue plan. The street tanks.

Sen. Judd Gregg, the independent-minded Republican senator from New Hampshire (which kind of describes the whole state), decides at the last minute that he doesn't want to be President Obama's secretary of Commerce after all.

He cites his discomfort with Obama fiscal policies -- and, as The Ticket reported earlier, political battles over the 2010 Census. All this after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama's first choice, had already pulled out of consideration because of an ethics probe.

Just as stunning, Obama lauds Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens for saying that if Congress passes his $789-billion stimulus package, Caterpillar will be able to rehire some of the 22,000 workers recently laid off. Then Owens says, not so fast, maybe not. And this after Obama invited him on Air Force One en route to the company's plant in East Peoria!

So where's the White House advance team? The vetting team? Critics are piling on.

Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC this morning that if his congressional staff had messed up this badly, he'd have fired them. The Wall Street Journal called Gregg's announcement "a fresh embarrassment for an administration rocked by a number of setbacks ... two days after a bank rescue plan was widely panned by financial markets and lawmakers from both parties." As Bob Schieffer put it on "The CBS Evening News":

To have these incidents happening over and over again, this does not help this administration's credibility. There's no other way you can say it.

For his part, Obama was gracious about the Gregg setback. As our friends at The Swamp noted, he joked with a crowd in Springfield, Ill., about whether Abraham Lincoln had also had trouble finding a Commerce secretary.

-- Johanna Neuman

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