Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Friday, February 06, 2009

When Obama tapped Tom Daschle for Health and Human Services I was disapointed. The pick made sense-- obviously Daschle was being called upon to help move the levers. Obama hasn't logged the kind of Washington time necessary to aquire the backroom arm twisting skills on big stuff like healthcare reform, and he took a lesson from the Clinton crash-and-burn and turned to someone who knew the ropes. I give the guy credit, he is good at learning from the past and avoiding the mistakes of his predecessors. Plus, Daschle has been there for Obama from the day he arrived in the Senate, and was certainly helpful in helping him to win Iowa. My problem with the Daschle pick really came down to two things. First, it meant that Obama approach to healthcare really was going to look like what he campaigned on, rather than the more fundamental reform I'd like to see. My other problem was that by picking Daschle Obama left Howard Dean out in the cold.

I don't know whether Dean would have preferred H&HS or Surgeon General, and Sanjay Gupta, media figure, makes sense as Surgeon General, but Dean deserved to be asked. He created the model that Obama followed to win, and even more important he created the 50 State strategy that allowed Obama to win. He did it without grandstanding or self-aggrandizing, he did it in the face of considerable Washington insider resistance (not just Rahm Emanuel-- Chuck Schumer was unhappy and vocal about it too), and he did it out of sincere commitment to advancing the Democratic agenda. Newsweek's Eleanor Clift has the reasons why this isn't going to happen, and just the fact that the idea is being floated in Newsweek makes me think that maybe the notion is half-baked. Even so, Dean has a habit of being right about things. He is a loyal, right-thinking guy. Unlike Daschle he has demonstrated that he can run a big, complicated organization. Tapping him to come in off the bench would make a lot of lefties, like me, happy. It is not a pick without a downside, but I think it would be a good call, and the right thing to do.

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