Roll Call: Daschle is HHS Secretary Pick

David M. Drucker:

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has been offered the job of Health and Human Services secretary by President-elect Barack Obama and has accepted the job, according to a Democratic source close to Daschle.

Daschle, who served in the Senate until he lost his re-election bid in 2004, also is set to take on the position of "health care czar" in the Obama White House, ensuring that he does not get bigfooted on matters relating to health care policy, according to this source.

Daschle was a close adviser to Obama throughout the Illinois Democrat's presidential campaign, and has been outspoken about his desire to enact a government-funded health care insurance program to help cover the approximately 40 million Americans who do not have coverage.

This news doesn't come as too much of a surprise. It was rather clear that Tom Daschle would be a part of an Obama administration, with the former Senate Majority Leader aiding Barack Obama's presidential efforts and his one time staff making up much of the upper eschelon of Obama's Senate office. If Daschle wasn't going to become White House Chief of Staff, odds were that he would become Secretary of Health and Human Services, which will be a key position in an Obama administration angling to enact universal healthcare legislation.

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Foggy Bottom for Hillary?

Given that much, if not most, of the speculation we hear about staffing in the coming Obama administration isn't necessarily going to be reliable, I was reluctant to pass on the reporting (first from NBC News' Andrea Mitchell) that not only was Hillary Clinton under consideration for the position of Secretary of State -- she was in fact traveling to Chicago today. Yet given that the news is just about everywhere now -- The Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, Politico, Reuters... you name it -- it's probably worth a mention here at MyDD. Here's the Associated Press' take:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is among the candidates that President-elect Barack Obama is considering for secretary of state, according to two Democratic officials in close contact with the Obama transition team.

Clinton, the former first lady who pushed Obama hard for the Democratic presidential nomination, was rumored to be a contender for the job last week, but the talk died down as party activists questioned whether she was best-suited to be the nation's top diplomat in an Obama administration.

The talk resumed in Washington and elsewhere Thursday, a day after Obama named several former aides to President Bill Clinton to help run his transition effort.

The two Democratic officials who spoke Thursday did so on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering Obama and his staff. Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines referred questions to the Obama transition team, which said it had no comment.

Just because Clinton's name is out there doesn't mean it's a foregone conclusion. But whenever there's this much chatter, there's clearly something going on. It might be real movement towards a pick. It might just be a trial baloon. It might merely be an attempt at a bait and switch (though probably not as misdirection isn't particularly well received by the press).

As for the substance of a Clinton pick, should that be the direction in which Obama goes, there's no question that such a move would underscore Obama's determination to put together the strongest possible team -- even if that team isn't exactly new blood (think Joe Biden, think Rahm Emanuel, think John Podesta, think Ron Klain, et al.). Clinton and Obama might not have looked exactly eye-to-eye on all matters foreign policy during the primaries, but their approach to the world is by and large similar. And I can certainly see Clinton being a strong surrogate for the Obama administration throughout the world.

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The Dog that Isn't Going to Bark

Yesterday I noted some of the speculation over potential picks for Barack Obama's cabinet. Today Marc Ambinder gives some good advice to those hoping to read the tea leaves: Listen to what you're not hearing.

New rule in Washington: those who are being seriously considered for a cabinet position or a senior-level staff position are keeping very, very, quiet. "Sorry, can't talk," is a response reporters are getting a lot these days.

So this public appearance by Sen. Chuck Hagel caught my attention: he's scheduled to speak next week at what's billed as the "Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum" at Johns Hopkins in Washington....

I tend to buy this rationale -- with a key caveat. The Obama campaign's efforts to plug leaks was remarkable and perhaps even unprecedented in American history, which along with the general "no drama" policy in the campaign strongly suggests that we aren't going to hear a great deal about appointments before they occur. However, and here's where this theory is called into question, the first major appointment of the coming administration -- that of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff -- was clearly telegraphed ahead of time.

Nearly a week out from election day, the Associated Press reported that Emanuel had been approached by Obama to serve as Chief of Staff in the event of a Democratic victory. At the time, I didn't buy it, just for the reasons mentioned above. Why, I wondered, after a campaign largely free from leaks would such a move be leaked -- particularly in a way that could be spun by Republicans as premature drape-measuring? But as it turned out, my instincts were wrong, and Emanuel's hiring was in the cards.

So, yes, I do believe that it would be wise not to engage to too great an extent in the speculation game -- but do not necessarily assume just because you're hearing chatter that it's just throwing you off the mark.

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Obama Transition Names Internet Team

Greg Sargent has the details:

Now this is a good sign: The Obama transition team has just signed up two leading Web types for the transition's Internet outreach team, a welcome indication that the Obama team is moving to transfer its astonishing online successes during the campaign over to the world of governing.

A transition source tells us that that Macon Phillips, a key Obama campaign Web official, has been tapped to head new media for the transition, and Jesse Lee, a leading Web operative who handled Rahm Emanuel's DCCC internet outreach operation during the 2006 take-back of Congress, has been hired to do online communications. Obama's transition team confirms the hires.

I'd agree with Sargent that this is a positive development. Macon was one of the bright minds in the Obama campaign's new media team who helped fundamentally reshape the way online politics are waged, enabling voters to take the election into their own hands by easily contacting and disseminating information to their friends and by funding the campaign so that it did not have to overwhelmingly rely on large contributions. Jesse has been doing blog outreach as long as anyone in the business, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office during the 110th Congress, and with the Democratic National Committee during the final months of the 2008 campaign. Their selection, as well as the hiring of Open Left's Mike Lux as a liaison to the progressive community, signals a real interest by the the Obama transition team that they take the new media, and the netroots in particular, seriously.

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Cabinet Speculation

For those interested, US News has some:

Writes Paul Bedard of this document:

Now the above transition flowchart. It is making the rounds in Washington tonight, though our source would not reveal the actual source of the document. It lists suggestions for top cabinet posts, many of which have been rumored for days inside and outside the new administration. Of note: Al Gore might be under consideration for a "climate czar" position; Colin Powell could be education secretary; Howard Dean might get health and human services; Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Caroline Kennedy could be the ambassador to the United Nations. It's just an unofficial guide but a fun one to follow.

Of course this is pure speculation at this point, but one thing I'd like to see in the cabinet that is not present here -- and I haven't heard a whole lot of chatter about -- is the nomination of a Republican Senator hailing from a state in which a Democratic Governor has the power to appoint a Democratic replacement. For instance, the appointment of Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins, moderate Republicans from Maine, would allow Democratic Governor John Baldacci to appoint a temporary Democratic replacement in their wake, likely shifting the seat to the Democrats for some time to come. There are a handful of other states in which this would be possible, though Governor's power to appoint replacement Senators varies from state-to-state and not all Senate Republicans could fit into a Democratic cabinet.

On a more personal note, I'd love to see Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer (for whom I previously consulted) in the Transportation Secretary slot, as Mike Allen, Marc Ambinder and others have suggested.

Do remember, however, that we aren't likely to see any major appointments too soon.

What are your thoughts?

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