Sunday, March 1, 2009

Robert Gates -- American Hero, Sebelius to Head HHS, Site Update

Robert Gates -- True American Patriot
I just finished watching Defense Secretary Robert Gates interview on Meet the Press this morning, and I continue to be struck by how much of a debt of gratitude this country owes him.

Consider -- when Gates took office, Iraq was a mess. Our military strategy was failing, our troops were overextended and the entrenched thinking of Donald Rumsfeld was eroding our chances for victory there. Gates turned things around quickly, in part due to the surge, but in large measure due to leadership changes on the ground and a strategy of engaging with the communities in Iraq. By any measure, things have turned around drastically there, to the point where even Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) agrees that we can be out by next August and leave victorious.

Then, when Barack Obama defeated John McCain for the Presidency, promising an Iraq pullout, Gates, a Republican, agreed to stay on to see that the job was done right. He has helped to shape the Obama policy to one that is eminently reasonable and ensures, as best as is possible, an orderly withdrawal.

Today, Secretary Gates, ever the public servant, declined to engage in the politics or criticize either his former or present boss. Gates reminds me a lot of the kind of ethic we saw from Colin Powell over the past 20 years.

Gates indicated in the interview that the length of his service was at the President's discretion and said he did not have an end date for his service in mind at this point. He did, however, indicate that he did not intend to serve the entire length of the 4 year term.

The rumor in Washington is that Gates is slated to stay about 1 year into the new administration. President Obama would be wise to retain Gates leadership for as long as possible, preferably at least through next August to oversee the draw down in Iraq. I don't know if Gates will be willing to stay this long, but as I've written before, the President needs credible leaders heading the key departments that can be his mouthpiece. Gates is among the best he's got.

Sebelius to Head HHS
As I've been speculating since shortly after the withdrawal of Tom Daschle from the HHS job, media reports indicate that President Obama will tap Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) for the HHS job. Unlike with Daschle, who was a Washington insider, the President intends to appoint a separate White House health care policy czar, who will help guide the push for universal healthcare. This makes sense, as Gov. Sebelius does not have the Washington connections that Daschle does, but certainly makes for a more complicated execution, having two heads on the horse. But it may be for the best to have someone separate heading the policy initiative -- the new HHS Secretary faces significant challenges, including reforming the FDA and the USDA, managing the planned reductions in Medicare and Medicaid payments to providers and heading a large, sprawling bueracracy.

At any rate, Gov. Sebelius appears to face no significant obstacles to confirmation at this point. Both Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) have expressed support for her appointment and she appears to have no major hurdles. Of course, I thought the same of Daschle, so you never know.

This leaves President Obama with no major appointments left to make. Sebelius and former Gov. Gary Locker (D-OR) for Commerce still face confirmation votes in the Senate as does US Trade Representative-Designate Ron Kirk. The major challenge in the executive now will be to get the second-tier leadership in place, particularly at Treasury and Defense to take some of the load off of the President and his Cabinet. President Obama has been a one man tour de force so far, but as I've often said, he needs additional credible voices that can speak for his administration if he wants to be successful.

Site Update
The traffic on this site has continued to remain at about the same level since I started tracking it on January 25th (actually late evening January 24th), with a total of 408 views, averaging 11.7 per day. The peak day for traffic was January 27th, which had 43 views, the date I published the first look at the 2010 Senate races. Our slowest day for traffic was February 15th, with a mere 3 page views, the day after publishing a post about the stimulus passing and the Hilda Solis appointment.

My basic read is that site traffic appears to peak when I publish polling analysis and predictive information and appears not to be as high when I have articles dedicated to political analysis and commentary. I did not have the traffic tracking tolls in place, but based on the e-mail volume I received, I imagine our readership probably peaked in the lead-up to the November election.

My goal is to build readership on this site, so I'd like your input. Please e-mail me (or comment if you choose, although I've noticed people are much more inclined to send me e-mail for whatever reason) and let me know what you'd like to see:
Do you prefer polling analysis, historical analysis (like my economic posts) or current events analysis and commentary?
What additional content would you like to see on this sites? Links? More interactive media?

I've really enjoyed building this site up and would like to take it to the next level. I would love your input. And if you like this site, as I've often said, please visit often and tell your friends. It is and will always be free of charge and for your enjoyment.

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