The Gupta Nomination: Getting the Troops Ready on Health Care

Obama’s reported offer to Sanjay Gupta to be US Surgeon General seems to me to be a strong indication that, among other things, the administration will make a major push on health care. Here’s a guy who is known and (presumably) trusted by millions of people, who knows television, who has the best media connections available. I’d be stunned if he’s not front and center on the issue.

Tom Daschle is an extraordinarily skilled politician on Capitol Hill, but no one would call him a television natural. Thus, Daschle and Gupta could quite possibly be the Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside on health care.

It also reflects two other things about the Obama Administration:

1) Obama might have campaigned on Change, but when it comes to centralizing the policymaking apparatus in the White House, Obama is closely following his predecessor (albeit without VP Darth Vader). Summers is in the saddle on economic policy; Browner is running the show on energy and environment (although there will be titanic battles between the two of them); Valerie Jarrett will ride herd on everyone else; Leon Panetta figures to be the President’s man at CIA; Daschle may be HHS Secretary, but more importantly, he is White House Health Policy Advisor. Dubya’s first appointment was Colin Powell; Obama’s was Rahm Emanuel. Cabinet speculation is fun, but this will be an administration very much controlled from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And, as Yglesias has pointed out, this is good for the Jews.

2) If this goes through, it’s another example of Obama really diversifying the policymaking elite without anything seeming to be a diversity pick. The guy’s good.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.