Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daschle to Lead Health and Human Services

The Washington Post reports that Barack Obama has appointed former Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle to lead the Department of Health and Human Services:

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen his close confidant and former Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle to serve as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, according to several sources close to the transition.

Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, will also reportedly be given a policy portfolio that stretches beyond the department in order to help shepherd health-care reform legislation in 2009.

He will oversee a department of nearly 65,000 employees spread across 11 operating divisions with a budget this year of $707.7 billion. If he is confirmed by the Senate, his responsibilities will include the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the Food and Drug Administration, public health programs and government research at the National Institutes of Health.

More significantly, Daschle has positioned himself as Obama's central adviser on efforts to dramatically expand health-care coverage next year, while at the same time lowering costs. During the campaign, Obama promised to reduce the average family's medical bill by $2,500.

There are certain to be questions surrounding Daschle's wife, Linda, a registered federal lobbyist with the firm Baker Donelson. During Daschle's 2004 re-election campaign, Republicans sought to paint the Democrat as the ultimate Washington insider, using some of his wife's lobbying clients as evidence that the Senator was more worried about Washington than South Dakota.

The Republican National Committee quickly pounced on Daschle's post-Senate activities in a statement released this afternoon.

"Barack Obama is filling his Administration with long-time Washington insiders," said RNC spokesman Alex Conant. "Since losing his Senate seat, Tom Daschle has worked for a major lobbying firm. For voters hoping to see new faces and fewer lobbyist-connections in government, Daschle's nomination will be another disappointment."

Daschle is not a lobbyist, although his firm--Alston & Bird--does have a lobbying arm.

For Daschle, the post at HHS is a political rebirth of sorts following a devastating defeat for re-election in 2004. Daschle, then the Senate Minority Leader, was defeated by Sen. John Thune, who two years earlier had lost a tightly contested race against Sen. Tim Johnson.

Daschle was one of Obama's earliest supporters and a number of Daschle-trained operatives -- field guru Steve Hildebrand, political mind Jennifer O'Malley and communications guru Dan Pfeiffer -- held senior roles in Obama's presidential campaign.

Daschle was initially rumored to be in the running for White House chief of staff but following Rep. Rahm Emanuel's (Ill.) ascension to that post became a leading candidate for HHS.

Daschle, 59, is a co-author of the book "Critical: What We Can Do about the Health-Care Crisis," in which he recommends creating an entity modeled after the Federal Reserve Board oversee health care in the United States.
I always thought Dashcle was a good guy. He seemed to have the public interest at heart in his governing style. I can't recall anything particularly controversial about him, beyond the criticism of his wife's lobbying ties.

I can say that the attacks on Obama for appointing top Washington advisors are fair, but frankly, the president-elect's more likely to hit the ground running with a seasoned team of operatives, and thus he's way more likely to avoid the drastic screw-ups that marred Bill Clinton's first year in office. People to this day criticize Clinton for bringing Thomas "Mack" McLarty to Washington, because he was an outsider to the nation's capital and didn't serve the new administration well.

Obama may have pulled off the best bait-and-switch in the history of presidential campaigns: Run on a ticket of hope, change, and reform, then upon taking office govern like a crooked big-city boss with ruthless advisors who know where all the skeletons are buried and who know how to leverage patronage to maximum and merciless political advantage.


EDGE said...

"I can say that the attacks on Obama for appointing top Washington advisors are fair, but frankly, the president-elect's more likely to hit the ground running with a seasoned team of operatives"

Yes, but I thought Obama's whole election was about change?

AmPowerBlog said...

He's a hypocrite, Edge, LOL!

Average American said...

We all knew, or should have known that the reality would not look anything like the fantasy of his promises. This is only the beginning. I think the leftards may end up even more disappointed and disallusioned than us conservatives. I ALMOST pity them. Ya, RIGHT!

Anonymous said...

Obama didn't just campaign on an empty slogan of 'change'. He had a set of concrete policy proposals. He is filling his administration with people who support those policies and have the background that will help him implement them.

Daschle has long supported health care reform, and his background in Congress will help him work with congressmen in getting it passed. I'm sure you don't think that's a good idea, but its hardly a departure from his campaign promises.