The Daschle introduction

THE DASCHLE INTRODUCTION…. Barack Obama has introduced former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as his choice to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, and as the director of the new White House Office of Health Reform. He’s also introduced Jeanne Lambrew as the deputy director, moving from her role as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a professor at the University of Texas.

Mike Allen noted this morning that Daschle was initially reluctant to take over HHS, because he felt it was not the place to get a reform measure passed. “So,” Allen reported, “the Office of Health Reform will be like a special-projects arm of the White House. By adding that role to his spot in the Cabinet, he’s aligning the planets to allow him to push for significant changes — to try for health reform more ambitious than people are thinking.”

That’s very encouraging. We knew a couple of weeks ago, when Daschle’s name was first leaked, that his position in the administration made healthcare reform more likely.

Ezra Klein argues this morning that there’s even greater cause for optimism now.

…Daschle is rather better integrated into Obama’s political structure then your everyday appointee. And he has the relationships and the information to have made an informed judgment on whether the president-elect was serious enough about health care to merit Daschle’s full-time involvement. Which is again why I urge people not to underestimate the importance of this pick, either as a signal of intentions or a signal of strategy.

Though this point is argued in greater detail below, the distance between Ira Magaziner and Tom Daschle could not be greater. Magaziner knew nothing of the Congress. Daschle knows nearly everything. If the Clinton plan failed because it was too much the product of a policy process and too little the product of a congressional process, Daschle’s involvement is the strongest evidence possible that Obama’s plan will not suffer from the same mistakes.

Rahm Emanuel recently insisted that an incremental approach won’t do when it comes to healthcare, and Obama will throw the ball deep. That appears even truer this morning than it did in mid-November.

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