Obama needs Howard Dean’s help on health care. Dean understands the issue; he is a doctor, was governor of Vermont, the best Democratic candidate for President in 2004, and former head of the DNC. This NYT article on Rahm Emanuel talks about how Sidney Blumenthal lost a job at State because he got crossed up with Emanuel, but a more serious rift is between Emanuel and Dean. Dean and Emanuel had very different visions for the Democratic Party’s strategy in 2008. While Emanuel gets the credit for the sweeping Democratic victory in the House, Dean played an important role that may have surpassed Emanuel’s by making the Democratic Party competitive everywhere, not just in strongly “blue” states. But because Emanuel and Dean fought during the 2008 election, Dean is persona non-grata in the While House.
Dean would probably have been a better choice for HHS Secretary than Tom Daschle, Obama’s original choice. Daschle is just an old pol; he can slap backs and cajole, but he doesn’t have the vision that Dean does, something that everybody says is badly lacking in the While House at the moment. Obama has just thrown his very fuzzy vision of health care into the lions’ den of Congress. As a result, Obama may get something, but it may not be worth very much. Dean would have had a much more focused plan, and as former DNC chairman, would at least have had a shot at getting it approved. Emanuel has a lot of clout in the House, where many members may feel they owe him their jobs, but he doesn’t have as much in the Senate, where the real problems lie at the moment.
It may be impossible for Obama to get Emanuel and Dean to work together. It’s unfortunate for the country that he can’t.