Tom Daschle to Head HHS

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has been tapped by Obama to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, and, according to Roll Call, has accepted the position. Think Progress reports that he will also
take on the position of "health care czar" in the Obama White House. CNN's Ed Henry is also reporting he negotiated the "health care czar" position in order to be "the point person on all White House health-related issues."
I'm okay with this selection—and that's exactly as noncommittal a reaction as it sounds.

On the plus side, Daschle has (literally) written the book on the healthcare crisis. He knows the ins and outs of Congress and how to get shit done; as Drum says, he "is plainly dedicated to healthcare reform, he understands the legislative realities as well as anyone." Steve notes: "The Daschle announcement reinforces the notion that an Obama administration is going to take the push for healthcare reform very seriously" and "the Daschle news makes me even more encouraged about the prospect of a healthcare package actually passing. Emanuel is insisting that an incremental approach won't do; Baucus and Kennedy are laying the groundwork on the Hill; and Daschle has been preparing for this fight for quite awhile."

On the other hand, Daschle is definitely not as lefty as I'd like to see with regard to socializing healthcare and not running it through corporate America; instead, he favors a Federal Health Board, which would "create a management infrastructure to integrate our public and private health-care systems." (He's also not as lefty as I'd like on everything else.) He's always been too corporatey for me to like or trust him a whole lot. His public persona is less than dynamic; I'm not sure how successful he'll be in mobilizing public support for a major institutional overhaul—though maybe that's more the charismatic president-elect's role, anyway.

Daschle's a safe choice. He can get the job done, and he's probably as far left as anyone Obama would have been willing to choose for this role.

To be perfectly blunt, because there are so many long-ignored issues surrounding healthcare access, research, and treatment specific to women, racial minorities, and/or LGBTQIs, this is the one cabinet position where I really wanted to see a woman of color, preferably queer, with a relevant background, so to get a straight white guy from South Dakota is a little disappointing. But any leader is only as good (or is as great) as the people with whom s/he surrounds her/himself, so hopefully Daschle will surround himself with a diverse team who are interested in building a new healthcare system that better serves a wider spectrum of people.

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