Dump Daschle, Appoint Dr. Dean

Former Senate Democratic Leader and current Health and Human Services Secretary nominee of President Obama, Tom Daschle has a serious tax problem. Daschle's tax problems are not Geinter-sized $15,000 tax problem. Oh, no. The former Senator forgot to pay $120,000 in taxes. Yes, he later paid it with interest. But it's not as though he forgot a line item on his tax forms. He forgot to include a whole use of a car and a driver, while probably talking to his tax advisers in that very car while being driven by that very driver.

Enough already. Whether Tom Daschle is merely incompetent or a crook is a discussion for another day. I tend to think the former. But haven't we had enough incompetence to deal with for the past eight years?

I understand President Obama's desire to appoint someone with connections to Congress and how it works to the position of HHS secretary, since he plans to push an ambitious health care agenda through Congress. But having this taint on Daschle will not help that case. Think about this message coming from Republicans: The guy who forgot to pay taxes in the amount of the annual gross incomes of 2 and a half families of four wants to spend your tax money on expanding government sponsored health care. Another thing: The Republicans know how to defeat Tom Daschle. Daschle never could give the Democrats the majority in the Senate (except when a Republican from Vermont quit the Senate Republican caucus and became an independent), and he was the only leader of a party in Congress to be ousted by the opposing party in an election in recent memory. Tom Daschle has rolled over for Republicans over and over, and there is no reason to place a whole lot of trust that it will all of a sudden change tomorrow.

At this point, Tom Daschle is not a political asset for the President. He is a political liability. The President would do well to dump him and name a new HHS Secretary who has the track record of delivering health care to Americans and someone who knows what real patients and doctors go through. A doctor, perhaps. Yes. Gov. Howard Dean, M.D. Under Governor Dean's leadership, Vermont delivered health insurance to nearly all of its children, and 92% of adults in the state. Before entering politics, and even as a part-time state legislator and then Lt. Governor, Dr. Dean practiced medicine, and his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean, still does. Governor Dean has the unique combination of experience in effectively delivering health care - both as a policy maker and as a medical doctor. Not to mention that President Obama's plan looks amazingly similar to the plan Gov. Dean put out during his presidential campaign in 2003 and 2004 - the first of its kind in that campaign, which was then essentially copied by the rest of the Democratic campaigns in 2004 and then in 2008 - with the notable exception in Edwards and Clinton plans of mandates. Obama's plan did not have mandates.

Not only has Gov. Dean excelled in delivering health care and knows the struggles of both patients and health care providers more personally than most can imagine, he is also one of the most effective and efficient managers of our time. He delivered Vermont from a deficit to a surplus, put its financial house back in order, went to bat for what he thought was right even when it threatened his re-election (signing the civil unions bill 6 months before re-election, an act that almost cost him the office of governor). As Chairman of the DNC, he repaired a party teetering on the edge of irrelevance - a party that lost a presidential election to the worst president in history and lost seats in Congress to crooks lead by Tom Delay - to greatness in 2 short election cycles by investing in places to the dismay of the political establishment. His leadership and management in streamlining the Democratic party and putting together a national voter list - used by all candidates, including now-President Barack Obama - was a decisive factor in not only electing Barack Obama president but giving him the kinds of Congressional majorities he will need to move an ambitious, progressive agenda. If you want health care effectively advocated for and efficiently administered, you cannot find a person more qualified person to fill the job of HHS Secretary than Howard Dean.

There is considerable support for Gov. Dean as HHS Secretary, and not just from the traditional political left. I cannot believe Greta Van Susteren of Fox News agrees with me on this, but she does. Mr. President, how's that for bi-partisanship?

Dr. Dean delivered health care to patients. Gov. Dean delivered and expanded health care for Vermonters (along with near universal coverage for Vermont children). Let him be Secretary Dean and deliver universal health care for all Americans. Mr. President, nominate Howard Dean to be the secretary of Health and Human Services.