20 November, 2008

Blowing With the Winds of Change

Forgive me if I'm a little breathless. There's been a flurry of news around Obama's transition, and, well. Damn. I've spent the last several minutes on YouTube watching my favorite Scorpions video and grinning like an idiot. If you were hoping for a trip to the woodshed, I'm afraid you'll be going away very disappointed indeed.

I didn't have many concerns on the Rahmbo front to begin with, and after today, you couldn't fill a teetotaler's shot glass with 'em:

My biggest concern about Rahm Emanuel becoming the next White House chief of staff is his record of incrementalism.

With that in mind, it was hard not to find his comments yesterday very encouraging. Talking to a group of CEOs and business leaders, Emanuel said incremental changes wouldn't be enough, and urged his audience to work with the Obama administration's push for universal health care.

"When it gets rough out there, a lot of business leaders get out of the car and say, 'We're OK with minor reform.' I'm challenging you today, we're going to have to do big, serious things," Rahm Emanuel said, speaking to The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council, a conference convened to elicit corporate opinion on the challenges facing the new president. [...]

Mr. Emanuel promised that a major economic stimulus would be "the first order of business" for Mr. Obama when he takes office Jan. 20. The focus of spending will be on infrastructure, specifically "green infrastructure," which he said would include mass transit, upgraded electricity transmission lines, "smart" electrical meters that allow consumers to save money by using electricity at off-peak hours, and universal broadband Internet access, which he said would encourage telecommuting.

He stressed that the new administration would "throw long and deep," taking advantage of the economic crisis to push wholesale changes in health care, taxes, financial re-regulation and energy. "The American people in two successive elections have voted for change, and change cannot be allowed to die on the doorsteps of Washington," Mr. Emanuel said.


This didn't sound like an incrementalist, promising to go slow and work around the edges; it sounded like someone ready to help the president make real changes real soon.

Methinks Obama's inspired somebody. Watching Rahm on a "yes, we can!" tear is going to be purely awesome.

Then came word of Obama's choice for health czar:

In a sign that he may adopt a comprehensive approach to solving the health care crisis, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

Ezra Klein points out, “you don’t tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That’s not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress.” Earlier this year, during an address at the Families USA Action Conference, Daschle concurred with the need to ‘think big’ on reform:

Incremental change in our system is no longer a viable option. Instead we need comprehensive reform. In growing numbers the American people are demanding that we do something. Our goal should be to build what current and retired members of Congress have today, and make that available for all Americans.

Daschle is a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Center for American Progress and is the author of Critical: What We Can Do About the American Health-Care Crisis.

No, not just secretary - I said czar and I meant czar:

Daschle is also set to 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.”
You wanted to know if Obama's serious about health care reform? There's your answer. Not to mention this is the second person closely associated with the Center for American Progress that Obama's tapped. Extraordinary. He may govern from center-left, but he's salting progressives in there, and I think that's a sign of what he means to do.

Several of his staffing choices, announced today, also give me a good feeling about this presidency:

As expected, the Obama team announces via press release that David Axelrod -- one of the "architects" of Obama's victory -- is heading to the White House to serve as senior adviser to the President.


Lisa Brown, Staff Secretary

Lisa Brown is the Executive Director of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. Lisa was Counsel to Vice President Gore from September 1999 through January 2001, and Deputy Counsel from April 1997 through August 1999...


Greg Craig, White House Counsel

Gregory B. Craig served under President Bill Clinton as Assistant to the President and Special Counsel. Prior to his appointment to that post he served for two years as Director of Policy Planning under Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Craig also worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy as Senior Advisor on Defense, Foreign Policy and National Security from 1984-1988...


Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary

Christopher P. Lu has worked for President-elect Obama in a number of roles over the past four years. He was Legislative Director and Acting Chief of Staff in Obama's Senate office, as well as a policy advisor during the presidential campaign. Chris is now the Executive Director of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, where he manages the day-to-day operations of the transition. From 1997 to 2005, he was Deputy Chief Counsel to Rep. Henry A. Waxman on the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee (now the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee)...

If there's a theme here, it's that Obama's not getting stupid with the Team of Rivals meme - he'll have a few rivals in there, but what I'm mostly seeing so far in the official announcements is a group of tough, experienced Dems who can carry his vision forward.

And all of this was excellent. It would have been enough to make me happy indeed, but then Obama deftly topped my sundae with the best cherry evah:

As most of you know, I firmly supported Janet Napolitano for Attorney General and the new alarm administration. It looks as if Eric Holder will be in the Attorney General instead, but it CNN has just announced that Napolitano will be the choice for Department of Homeland security. Here is the Reuters headline:

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's top choice to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing multiple sources.

The Democratic governor, a supporter and campaigner for Obama's presidential campaign, had been reported to be on a short list of people to fill cabinet posts in the new administration.

Assuming she makes vetting and is confirmed, Janet will make a fantastic Secretary of DHS. Some of the skills and abilities I pointed out as qualifications for AG will serve her very well as Homeland Security.

Understand, my darlings: I utterly adore Janet Napolitano. She was my governor, and I was justifiably proud of that fact. Alas, Arizona, it looks like you're going to lose her, but your loss is the country's gain.

She really is fabulous.

So is all this news. It's fantastic to not wince in agony at every announcement coming out of Washington these days.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to my Scorpions.

1 comment:

Cujo359 said...

Ezra Klein's reaction to Daschle was mine, as well. Didn't see much point in his running that department otherwise. It's a political job, of course, but it requires the sort of understanding of public health concerns that comes with some experience in the field. You hire a professional politician for other reasons, like getting legislation passed.

Don't know much about Napolitano, but bmaz and you are familiar with her and like her, so that's reassuring. DHS sounds like a good spot for her, based on bmaz's description.