To no one’s great shock, Barack Obama has selected Kathleen Sebelius as his third choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services. The obligatory trial balloon comes to us through the New York Times, which must be thrilled to once again provide that service. Many expected the governor of Kansas to have been selected from the beginning:
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, an early Obama ally with a record of working across party lines, is emerging as the president’s top choice for secretary of health and human services, advisers said Wednesday.
Should she be nominated, Ms. Sebelius would bring eight years of experience as her state’s insurance commissioner as well as six years as a governor running a state Medicaid program.
But with President Obama about to begin a drive to expand health coverage, an issue on which the two parties have deep ideological divisions, her strongest asset in the view of the White House may be her record of navigating partisan politics as a Democrat in one of the country’s most Republican states.
Sebelius makes a lot of sense for Obama, for several reasons. She is pro-abortion, but still managed to get elected in a normally Republican state, showing that she has the kind of political skills that Obama can use in his Cabinet — and that Kansas Democrats will sorely miss once she’s gone. She had much more experience at health-care management than Tom Daschle, without the baggage of being a lobbyist in the industry.
Why didn’t Obama choose her first? Perhaps he did and she turned him down, but it seems more likely that Obama wanted to pay off Daschle for his early support. Sebelius came on board later in the campaign. Daschle’s vision of national health care was more expansive, at least publicly, and that may have been another factor.
One other factor: as governor, her taxes are probably more in order, or at least have been recently vetted. Being in the public spotlight at least suggests that she’s already dotted the Is and crossed the Ts.
Having a pro-abortion HHS Secretary is really nothing new; every Democratic President has had one. I find it more ironic that Team Obama leaked this on the same day as Eric Holder’s “nation of cowards on race” speech. Remember Sebelius’ McCarthyist moment during the campaign?
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius accused Republicans on Tuesday of injecting race into the presidential campaign, arguing that they are using “code language” to convince Midwesterners that Democrat Barack Obama is different from them.
“Have any of you noticed that Barack Obama is part African-American?” Sebelius asked with sarcasm. “(Republicans) are not going to go lightly into the darkness.”
Sebelius was responding to a question from the audience at the Iowa City Public Library about the tenacity of Democrats and whether they would fight for victory as hard as Republicans in the closing weeks of the election.
She did not elaborate on her comment.
I’ll donate to the re-election campaign of the first Republican Senator during her confirmation hearing to demand an explanation of why she called Republicans racists on the campaign trail. The press might want to ask her about it as well — if they weren’t busy covering up for her.