Howard Dean’s future

HOWARD DEAN’S FUTURE…. The only thing we know for sure about Howard Dean’s career plans is that he will no longer be chairman of the DNC. From there, it’s anybody’s guess.

My personal preference would be to see him return to Vermont and run for governor again, but the more common rumor in the wake of the elections is that he’d be a strong candidate to run the Department of Health and Human Services. It makes sense — Dean, a medical doctor, has executive experience and expanded healthcare access in his home state.

While keeping in mind that cabinet scuttlebutt often turns out to be wrong, the Politico’s Jeanne Cummings reports that Dean is “not a serious contender” for the HHS gig.

Dean’s name has appeared on short lists for the Cabinet post circulating throughout Washington, based largely on his party chairmanship and career as a doctor. Dean also passed health care reforms while governor of Vermont. And his allies said the Obama transition team has had some informal discussions with him about the job.

But the chief attributes President-elect Barack Obama is seeking in his HHS secretary will be an ability to work with members of Congress and shepherd reform legislation through the House and Senate.

That job description has turned out to be a particularly ill-suited one for Dean, given his partisan background and lack of congressional experience, sources inside and outside the transition offices say.

Dean never served in Congress and spent his Washington career trying to thin the ranks of congressional Republicans that the Obama White House will need to court during the expected debate on health care reform.

Without inside information, it’s very hard to know if this is true. We don’t even know if Dean wants a cabinet spot, or whether he would accept it if offered.

But the notion that “partisanship” should disqualify Dean is foolish. Jim Nicholson ran the RNC, and he joined Bush’s cabinet without controversy. Ed Gillespie ran the RNC, and he became a top aide in the Bush White House. Rahm Emanuel ran the DCCC, and now he’s poised to be the White House of Chief of Staff. Dean has a “partisan background”? Please.

If experience working with Congress is a sticking point, that’s obviously legitimate. I would add, however, that if working with lawmakers from both parties to get a healthcare plan through a legislature is important, Dean, unlike most policy makers in America, has actually done it.

As Markos concluded, “I really hope the report isn’t true.” Agreed.