Saturday, November 22, 2008

Interpreting Obama's cabinet picks

Today's "New York Times" has a lead analysis piece, interpreting President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet choices as indicating a pragmatic, rather than ideological, direction: "Obama Tilts to Center, Inviting a Clash of Ideas".

I would say that this holds for some posts and not for other posts. In this tumultuous economic crisis period, he is inclined toward finance choices that are not lurching into new directions. His choice of New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner for Secretary of the Treasury is representative of these choices. (Note conservative commentator Larry Kudlow's gushing over Geithner over this choice. --"Lawrence" at his blog.)

And, yes, centrism and continuity is at work in Obama's choice of defense choices:
"[T]he names racing through the ether in Washington about the choices to follow also suggest that Mr. Obama continues to place a premium on deep experience. He is widely reported to be considering asking Mr. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, to stay on for a year; and he is thinking about Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine Corps commandant, for national security adviser."

Yet, as one blog noted, the appointment of Tom Daschle (former senator from South Dakota) has been over-shadowed by the all-but certain appointment of Senator Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to Secretary of Commerce, I would add. Obama's choosing Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services indicates an interest in a progressive, "change"-oriented (to use the slogan/tired cliche from the campaign) approach to the health care crisis.
Note Dashle's phrase "we can't afford not to" [cover everyone] below, quoted in a "Publisher's Weekly" review:
The U.S. is "the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee necessary health care to all of its citizens," and as former senator Daschle observes, "Skeptics say we can't afford to cover everyone; the truth is that we can't afford not to" because U.S. economic competitiveness is being impeded by the large uninsured population and fast-rising health costs. Daschle's book delineates the weaknesses of previous attempts at national health coverage, outlines the complex economic factors and medical issues affecting coverage and sets forth plans for change. Daschle proposes creating a Federal Health Board, similar to the Federal Reserve System, whose structure, functions and enforcement capability would be "largely insulated from the politics and passion of the moment," in addition to a merging of employers' plans, Medicaid and Medicare with an expanded FEHBP (Federal Employee Health Benefits Program) that would cover everyone. "There is no more important issue facing our country," Daschle asserts, "than reform of our health-care system," and the book's "health-care horror stories" bring this immediacy home.

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