Obama Cabinet Watch: Health & Human Services UPDATE: SecDef Powell?

WitSnapper’s hiatus skipped over a couple of rumored and actual tappings for Cabinet and Cabinet-level posts in the upcoming Obama administration. (Still no sign of any answer to Chuck Schumer’s aspirations for Information Minister.)

First, the most recent: for Secretary of Health and Human Services, President-elect Obama is believed to have chosen former senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), defeated for re-election in 2004. Word is Daschle will also act as the White House’s point man on health policy (“health czar”), which means he will be more influential in the actual writing of the President’s health care policy than a HHS Secretary normally would be.  Daschle is currently a special advisor to a Washington lobbying firm. He is not a registered lobbyist, though his wife is, and she does have some health industry clients.

Status of appointment: Story and acceptance confirmed; Senate approval likely.

More appointment news from the hiatus below the break.

OK, next, a roundup of recent news:

  • Secretary of State: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). This was the first trial balloon (if it is that) to make a splash in the news. If it’s true, and she accepts, she can probably forget about being elected President. As a top official in the Obama Administration, she would have a tough time mounting a primary challenge to the incumbent in 2012. If Obama wins a second term, she could take up a bid for the nomination in 2016, but there are a couple of problems there. First, she will have been out of the world of elective politics for eight years. Second (how to put this delicately?), in 2016 she will be nearly 70 years old. Only one person has been elected President in that age range, and Hillary Clinton is no Ronald Reagan (68 when elected in 1980, 72 when re-elected). Plus, even though Reagan ran against two younger Democrats, you don’t have to be younger than Reagan to be old, and Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale were no spring chickens; the next two elections will likely see GOP nominees considerably younger than Clinton.
    Status of appointment: Still a disputed rumor, but Hillary is believed to be “torn” over the possibility nonetheless. (More here and here.)
  • Attorney General: Attorney Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General under Bill Clinton. Historic appointment in that Holder would be the first black Attorney General. One possible stumbling block is that he is generally believed to have facilitated the outrageous last-minute pardon of financier and international fugitive Marc Rich, a major Clinton donor. Even if Republicans do make a stink over the Rich pardon, however, they don’t have the power to block the nomination, nor is the Rich pardon politically explosive enough (at least not anymore) to embarrass Holder.
    Status of appointment: Story and acceptance confirmed; Senate approval likely.
  • Secretary of Defense: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). This rumor popped up briefly, but it’s not likely. Some wags thought Obama would be anxious to show his vaunted “spirit of bipartisanship” and reach out to his former opponent with a nice plum appointment like SecDef. I don’t see it happening. Granted, Republicans don’t have to worry about Arizona’s Dem governor Janet Napolitano whittling away further at their minority, since she would be required by state law to replace McCain with an appointment of the same party, but that doesn’t make much difference, given that McCain has already announced his intention to run for re-election to the Senate in 2010.
    Status of appointment: Busted.
  • White House Chief of Staff: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). This one already is all but a fait accompli. Rep. Emanuel, the former advisor to Bill Clinton and former DCCC Chairman, is known for being a pit bull who not only makes enemies easily, but seems to relish doing so. Emanuel is currently assisting in Obama’s transition process, and is being referred to as his de facto Chief of Staff. Many Republicans take this appointment as a sign that President Obama will not be nearly as bipartisan as he claimed during his campaign; hiring a party-line enforcer like Emanuel to a position that is better suited to a manager-type than an advocate-type might strike some as strange. Also, why would Obama give such a high-profile position to a former board member of Freddie Mac, and close ally to Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who now faces possible impeachment or recall?
    Status of appointment: Story and acceptance confirmed; Senate approval likely, and to a certain extent is already in practice.

Those are the biggies so far. More as events unfold.

UPDATE: Reader jonolan advises that we look for Obama to reach out to Colin Powell for SecDef. He’s got a point. It could easily explain Powell’s way-late and weakly-worded endorsement of Obama’s presidential bid (I posted about the endorsement’s lameness a few weeks ago). The Obama campaign may well have noticed that they still hadn’t sewn up the election by late October, and figured that an endorsement by a Republican, even a liberal one, might do the trick, and gone to Powell with the promise of a plum appointment. Powell, in turn, might have figured that serving in an Obama Administration might finally get people like Harry Belafonte to stop going on TV and calling him a “house slave.”

2 thoughts on “Obama Cabinet Watch: Health & Human Services UPDATE: SecDef Powell?

  1. Pingback: Obama Cabinet Watch: Commerce/HomeSec « WitSnapper | The Blog

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