Yesterday Marc Ambinder mentioned Senator Tom Harkin as a possible nominee for Health and Human Services secretary in Barack Obama's cabinet. As much as I agree with Harkin's views on health care, I would hate to lose his voice in the Senate.
Huffington Post contacted Harkin, who praised the idea of nominating former Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for the job:
"I think that would be a very good move," Harkin told the Huffington Post. "He brings all the background and experience. He's very strong on prevention and wellness, which I'm very strong on. I think he'd make an outstanding secretary of HHS."
Asked if he had spoken to White House on the matter, Harkin demurred: "I'm not going to get into that," he said after a pause.
You may recall that Harkin endorsed Dean for president shortly before the 2004 Iowa caucuses. I like Dean and his views on health care, but I fear that he is not necessarily the best person to bring Democrats in Congress along with a comprehensive health care reform package.
I had to laugh at this paragraph in the Huffington Post piece:
Whether this endorsement helps or hurts is a topic of debate. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Dean's frosty relationship with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will be the main impediment to his ending up at HHS. Others are concerned that a major netroots movement to appoint Dean will actually turn the White House off the notion. They don't want it to seem like they are "bending to the demands of the left," as one Democrat put it -- not because they aren't concerned with progressive priorities, but because the choice will be criticized as an effort in political pacification.
Heaven forbid Obama should appoint someone from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party! People might think he cares about left-leaning Democrats. Never mind that thousands of former Deaniacs became dedicated volunteers for Obama's presidential campaign. Without people like them he never would have won the nomination.
Marc Ambinder reported yesterday that Congressman Raul Grijalva has urged Obama to appoint Dean. Grijalva is a leading figure in the House Progressive Caucus and was favored by more than 130 environmental organizations for Secretary of the Interior (a job Obama gave to conservative Democrat Ken Salazar).
According to Ambinder, Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee is "a top candidate." Daily Kos diarist DrSteveB discussed some of the names being floated yesterday and explains why Bredesen would be "beyond awful." After reading that diary, I'm ready to remove the Obama-Biden magnet from my car if Obama nominates Bredesen.
By the way, DrSteveB likes Dean but doesn't think he's a good fit for Secretary of Health and Human Services.