Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Markos handicaps the HHS race

It's no secret that Rahm Emanuel loathes Howard Dean. The question is, will he let those feelings get in the way of seriously considering Howard Dean for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services?
The other two big names bandied about are Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen who would excite the HMOs and few others. In fact, his signature health care accomplishment was cutting coverage for his constituents.

In 2005, Bredesen cut 170,000 adults from Tennessee's Medicaid program, called TennCare. He reduced benefits for thousands more.

Bush's Medicare guy thinks he's peachy, though.

Dennis Smith, now a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, was in charge of Medicaid at the federal level in 2005. He said Bredesen's actions were "necessary and appropriate." [...]

The most praise for Bredesen comes from conservatives.

Great... Then there's Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who would be otherwise favored to win a 2010 Senate contest in her state -- a feat no Kansas Democrat has accomplished since 1939. As Nate says:

Having just one more reliable Democratic vote -- instead of having to play Bipartisan Boggle with the group of moderates -- would make a tremendous difference to the Obama administration in areas like health care and energy security. Likewise, having one fewer would give Mitch McConnell much more leverage in blocking Obama's agenda.

And yet, the Obama Administration still seems to be considering cabinet appointees that would deplete their own ranks in the Senate.

If Sebelius truly wants to be a major help to the Obama Administration, there could be no better place to do it from than the Senate. I always assumed that's why she didn't get any cabinet positions the first time around despite being one of Obama's most loyal and hard-working surrogates during the campaign -- because she was saving herself for 2010.

Then there's Dean, who was the repeated target of Rahm's very public verbal jabs while they headed the DNC and DCCC, respectively. Rahm wanted money for his closest races, and Dean wanted to focus on a 50-state strategy. Ironically, they were both right -- Emanuel's job at the DCCC was to fight tooth and nail for his candidates, and he certainly did. Part of that was scrounging for every last dime he could find, and so it was natural for Rahm to target the DNC for financial help. (He eventually got it, too.) Meanwhile, Dean's job was to build a national party, not fall prey to the same "battleground" mentality that had stymied the party for years.

So they clashed while doing what they were supposed to be doing -- advocating for the best interests of their respective organizations. Yet for some reason, Rahm took it personally and has held that grudge against Dean to the present day. The way Dean was treated during the leadership transition at the DNC was shameful, and there's zero hint of a thaw.

Yesterday, two progressive champions -- Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva -- publicly endorsed Dean for HHS. Could that be characterized as "momentum" in favor of a Dean nomination? I wouldn't bet on it. Rahm's a son of a bitch and his grudge-holding is legendary (it's probably a reason Obama chose him as chief of staff). And then there's recent history with cabinet nominations: flirt with a couple progressives, then pick the corporatist Blue Dog or conservative Republican instead.

So while Dean isn't the only solid progressive who would be a good choice for HHS, I'll defer to recent history: it'll be either Bredesen. Or Newt Gingrich.

But maybe, just maybe, as they realize that their "bipartisan" schtick has been utterly rejected by Republicans, they'll decide it's time to install a real progressive (whether Dean or someone else) in what should be one of the most important departments for the Obama Administration.
Howie P.S.: I love Howard Dean and have tremendous admiration for Barack (and Michelle) Obama, but I just don't see this dream coming true.

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