Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More "Change": Tom Daschle to Lead Dept. of Health and Human Services

The rumor mill continues to grind. CNN reports that Tom Daschle, a former Senator and Obama endorser, will head the Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration. Reportedly, Daschle will have the important task of pushing through Obama's health care reform agenda.

My take: I am waiting for a cabinet appointment who is not a "Washington insider" or who has not served in the Clinton administration. Actually, I am not. I just felt the need to say that, since the media will not. Honestly, I think Obama has made very wise selections. Clinton, Holder, Daschle, and the others are very capable individuals. Their selection (especially Clinton's), however, contradicts many elements of Obama's campaign message -- elements that I have always viewed with skepticism (see this article and others linked below). For the record, I typically view campaign messages with skepticism -- even when they come from candidates I support (including Obama).

My primary "beef" lies with liberals who have chosen to live in denial by refusing to acknowledge the contradictions between Obama's campaign and his early personnel decisions. So, in order to create a nuanced and more accurate historical record, I respectfully dissent from uncritical acceptance of reality.

Related readings on Dissenting Justice:

Governing In Prose: Obama's Cabinet Picks Defy Campaign Narrative That Emphasized "Hope," "Change," and "Washington-Outsider" Status

Progressives Awaken from Obama-Vegetative State

Robert Gates as Obama's Secretary of Defense: "More of the Same" for Gay Rights?


jlin said...

I have the same beef, but I don't think the majority of Obama supporters are in denial about his rhetoric vs. actions. Many supporters of Obama have recently been drawn into politics by his "charisma", not policies. If one doesn't know anything about the legal system or economics, not to mention Washington insiders, then who cares what the personnel decision are?

Check out this DC reporter's blog (google: False Dichotomy by Charles Davis), it's takes a thoughtful look at mainstream media and the DC establishment. The post entitled: The gift that keeps on giving, addresses the gap between what liberals believe Obama stands for versus reality.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hi Jlin. One of the things that made Obama's campaign successful was his ability to create a narrative that used attractive yet vague slogans - such as "change" and "hope." Given the failures of the Bush administration, a lot of voters found those concepts favorable, but they came to them with different views of what they meant. So, I believe that many of his supporters see him as endorsing a certain set of policies -- whether their views are consistent with reality or not. Thanks for dropping by and for making a comment. I will now visit the False Dichotomy webpage.

ErikaM said...

Hi -- I love your blog. I wonder though about the value of appointing an unknown just to have a new face. Isn't that what derailed Carter -- he shunned Washington insiders and his presidency suffered as a result?

Especially now, with the economy, do you think it's best to try out someone who doesn't have a track record in DC and knows how things get done?

My final point/question - did he mean change literally and across the board - as in new faces, staffers etc -- or did he mean change in philosophy or approach to problems, such as health care?


FLRN said...

Alright Darren - you already know what I think! - Yes the campaign was indeed masterfully brilliant with strong references to "change" and "hope" but I agree there is no congruency with the actions. The "vague" part comes in when you look for the actions or the rest of the sentence. Change what? Change who? Change how? Hope for more or less change? What is the big plan here??? You hit the nail on the head by suggesting these are in reality just concepts ~ the same thing I pray for each day in my own world. Mr. Obama was very charismatic and he does light a spark...but to keep the fire going I "hope" he makes a "change" and comes up with a plan instead sound bites - a real policy would be a nice "change" I think I will "hope" for that.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Thanks for the post. And thanks for visiting the site!

As I have said before, I actually do not have a problem with any of his choices except for Gates. On many levels, "change" was so ambiguous that it was hard to know what it meant -- especially in terms of policy.

But here's why I think that appointing Clintonites goes against his campaign rhetoric and the arguments of his supporters. During the primaries, Hillary Clinton was deemed unacceptable because she -- not her ideas -- represented the past. We constantly heard that we needed a "fresh face." Hillary was "stuck in the past," and many young supporters of Obama complained about having only seen a Bush or Clinton as president. So anything from the 90s was completely wrong. Obama represented a "new way" of doing politics. He was truly the bridge to the new century. Yadda yadda....

I always thought that was a foolish argument, but my objections went unheard. Well, now, his supporters argue that "change" on referred to policy. If that is the case, then Clinton was acceptable, since she and Obama supposedly share political views.

If Obama is the best because he has a "fresh face" and is a "Washington insider," then his cabinet should reflect that as well. If all of that was just rhetoric, then it doesn't matter how his cabinet looks or that they too are Washington insiders. If at the end of the day only policy matters for "change," then the "fresh face," Washington insider, stuck in the past language was just a bunch of divisive drivel.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

FLRN -- I had written a very good response (where's my modesty?), but when hit the submit key, the program "timed out." So, I lost it. I'll get back to you - but I've got to run out the door. Summary: vague PLUS voters' vigilance = maybe we'll get something we want/need.

Brittany said...

"I am waiting for a cabinet appointment who is not a "Washington insider" or who has not served in the Clinton administration."

So, for these past 8 years, what do you think all the Democrats have been doing? Working at Starbucks? He's got to pick people with ties to lobbying, because there's no one else left. And if he wants people with experience working in a Democratic administration, who is he supposed to be looking for? Former Carter staffers? I'm glad you acknowledge that you are happy with Obama's selections thus far. Just don't help perpetuate the myth that he's somehow reneging on his campaign promises.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Brittany -- I said I was not really waiting on this. My point, and I think I clarified this somewhere else (forgive me if I have not) is that so much of the argumentation around Obama was that we needed a "fresh face," that people were tired of having a "Bush" or "Clinton" in the White House, and that by virtue of being part of the 90s Clinton was just "more of the same." Now, it looks like those arguments were a bit disengenuous.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

PS: Brittany - there are other promises that have been broken that are far more important, like FISA, supporting the death penalty in rape cases, and delaying action on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and surrounding himself with pro-war types, despite the anti-war fervor of his campaign.

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