I think it’s safe to say that if Tom Daschle had never offered to help Barack Obama out with his campaign in the very beginning, Obama would have had a very hard time winning the race. He certainly wouldn’t have won as easily as he did either. But who is Tom Daschle and why am I talking about him?
Earlier in 2008, Tom Daschle wrote a book titled Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis. His name had already been red-flagged for some senior appointment in a possible Obama cabinet, but only then did the actual posting become known. Daschle had been red-flagged because he was a heavyweight both in Obama’s campaign team and in D.C. politics.
He was South Dakota’s 1st district representative from 1979-1983. After that, he became South Dakota’s at-large (meaning only because the state didn’t have population enough to have more than one district anymore) representative in the Houses from 1983-1987, working his way up into the Democratic leadership. Following this, he ran for one of South Dakota’s two senate seats, winning it in 1987 and serving until 2005. Having been part of the House’s leadership, it wasn’t long before he was in the Senate’s leadership, serving as the head of the Democrats from 1994-2003, and eventually became Senate Majority Leader from 2001-2003.
So I think it’s very safe to say Daschle knows how D.C. runs – a tick under 30 years experience. I cannot emphasise enough how much political weight and clout Daschle has.
After he lost his reelection bid in 2005, Daschle joined the law firm Alston & Bird as a policy adviser. Key to this firm is that they represent health care interests in D.C. The firm was paid $5.8 million between January and September 2008 to represent companies and associations before Congress and the executive branch, with 60 percent of that money coming from the health industry. Daschle, who had long been known as a health care advocate as a politician, had taken his passion to the private industry.
A little after this, Daschle threw his support behind a little known senator who he said “personifies the future of Democratic leadership” in the United States. Barack Obama, not even announced as a candidate, had a high profile backer already in Daschle. After announcing, Daschle pointed Obama in the direction of one of the five workers as responsible for his path to victory – Steve Hildebrand. Beyond this, Dachle stayed on himself to give policy advice and was a national co-chair of the campaign. He denied that he wanted the VP spot first, then the cheif of staff spot second. But when H.H.S. came up, he didn’t say anything.
Anyway, we get to the past week and Daschle has been leaked as the man to be offered the job – which he reported accepted. Now he is just pending Senate confirmation. It means that Obama is in a perfect position to keep a campaign promise, pending economic stability – universal health care. Daschle is a big supporter of it and has written a book about how to get it happening. Obama campaigned hard on it early, and would like to have it rolled out before the end of his first term as evidence that he is making strides. Additionally, with universal healthcare being such a focused issue this campaign, the post in the cabinet is about to become a whole lot more important than it has ever been. This could be the president to get it out there – the post has to be filled with a dedicated and political mind. Daschle is the man for that.