Now that Tom Daschle has withdrawn his name, whom should President Obama pick for U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services? My vote is for Governor Howard Dean, MD.
The HHS Secretary faces a daunting goal: to get healthcare reform passed by year's end. Like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Obama is taking on healthcare at a time when Democrats enjoy majorities in both the House and Senate. However, we all know how that movie ended. For this reason, Obama is looking for someone who not only understands the labyrinthine world of healthcare, but commands respect on Capitol Hill.
Enter Howard Dean, himself a doctor who has delivered on healthcare reform. As Governor of Vermont, Dean expanded healthcare coverage for children and pregnant women. When he left office, only 9.6 percent of Vermont residents were uninsured (in contrast, about 15 percent of all Americans are uninsured). Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal just listed Dean as one of the main contenders for HHS.
Influential voices like Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Raul Grijalva have already endorsed Dean. But what might hurt Dean's chances? As DNC Chair, Dean butted heads with future Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other Beltway insiders. Why? They bitterly opposed Dean's 50-state strategy -- the farsighted blueprint that enabled the Democrats to retake the House and Senate in 2006, as well as made Obama's landslide victory possible.
Dean may be exactly what Obama needs: a policy expert and populist who knows how to get things done.
Healthcare reform cannot wait. Please call the White House (202.456.1414) and ask President Obama to nominate Howard Dean.