Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not much for political patronage and payback. In all seriousness, the word “patronage” seems to conjure images of smoke filled backroom deals between fat cats who couldn’t care less what anyone thinks about their goings-on. These images should be relegated to undergraduate courses in political science, never to be made practical again. Never were the results of such deals more apparent than in the previous administration. No one will soon forget that former Vice President Cheney’s own company was awarded the central contract to engage in Iraq reconstruction.
Conflict of interest, maybe?
Come to think of it though, isn’t there a good side to patronage? For example, what if someone toils in the weeds for a couple of decades and gets much accomplished merely for the sake of legitimate change? (Yes, I know “change” has become quite the rage, with good reason.) Shouldn’t folks with the power to appoint consider them for positions, even if some in their inner circle dislike them for petty reasons? What if their work positively impacted the country?
If there is any kind of patronage politics I can support, it’s this kind. It’s why I strongly supported Senator Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Governor Bill Richardson for any foreign policy post of President Obama’s choosing. Both of these gentlemen have proven themselves to be dedicated public servants who, despite relatively minor blemishes in their dealings, never benefited from the kind of patronage and scandal reminiscent of, say, Senator Ted Stevens.
Daschle did a wonderful job in his various stints as Majority Leader of the United States Senate. He’s widely praised as an effective Senator, even without the trappings of his leadership post. Governor Richardson has had a long and distinguished career a Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary of Energy and most significantly, as the Governor of the State of New Mexico.
But, due to various events that have been reported at length, both Daschle and Richardson have been ejected from consideration for a spot in President Barack Obama’s cabinet. However unfortunate these losses are, there are still many talented and accomplished Americans from which to choose. There is one man who has worked very hard for the people of his State and the people of his country. He’s waiting in the wings to ably serve once more. That’s Dr. Howard Brush Dean, former Governor, Presidential candidate, and former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Like Daschle and Richardson, Dean has led a successful public life, with little to no evidence of any aims at personal enrichment at the public’s expense. His tenure as Governor was a productive one. As the 79th Governor of Vermont, Dean balanced several State budgets that had fallen into arrears; he led the State back to fiscal health after a nasty recession hit the State. Most importantly for these times, Dean signed a Children’s Universal Healthcare bill into law.
So, unlike the unfair caricature of him as a flaming, liberal, radical Presidential candidate, Governor Dean proved to be a pragmatic and effective chief executive. Additionally, he is a compelling speaker, which is why he rocketed from the relatively unknown Governor to within a stone's throw of winning the Presidential nomination in 2004.
Dean only became Governor because of the death of his predecessor. Acting as both a doctor and a Lt. Governor, he continued to see patients and conduct State business. In fact, he was seeing a patient when, as Lieutenant Governor, his staff notified him that he'd be taking the oath for the top job soon. He seems to lack the raw desire for power that can turn off voters. After all, he was re-elected several times.
These traits could be effective if Dr. Dean was given the chance to serve as this nation’s next Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Secretary’s most important job over the next several years will be to write, lobby for, and help pass a universal healthcare bill through the Congress. The Department needs a Secretary who has national prominence, a compelling voice, and attention to detail. The Governor has exhibited all three characteristics in his various roles.
With all due respect to the other persons being considered for the post, none match Dean’s qualifications. This voter strongly urges the White House to appoint Governor Howard Dean, M.D. to the post of Secretary of Health and Human Services. Dean’s already gaining support from elected officials, including Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Raul Grijalva.
Our new President won’t regret it, no matter what his Chief of Staff tells him. He surely didn’t regret adopting the Dean fundraising model in the 2008 Presidential election!