In Washington, You Never Know Who's Going to End Up Being Very Important

By Al Kamen
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Remember that reception you went to at Brookings a few years ago after that riveting panel on minority rights in Tajikistan? Or maybe it was East Kazakhstan? There was a guy, Todd something-or-other, who was right behind you in the drinks line? The one with the well-cropped brown beard, brown hair, glasses, engaging smile, central casting for a D.C. intelligence/policy guy?

Seemed bright and personable, but he worked for Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), a Democrat who clearly wasn't going to be president. So Todd surely wasn't going to be in any position to help you get that dream job you've always wanted as a deputy assistant secretary of defense or maybe something at the State Department. So, this being Washington, you naturally blew him off and wandered away to talk to someone more important.

Well, this e-mail floated by Tuesday morning from one Todd Rosenblum, who's worked at the CIA, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the State Department.

"I hate to blast email everyone," he writes, "but on very short notice, I have concluded a truly wonderful eight year run as Senator Bayh's national security advisor and on the Senate Intelligence Committee to join the Obama transition team."

That's nice. But wait. "I have joined the White House personnel transition team reporting to the deputy chief of staff. I will be coordinating political appointments for the Departments of State, Defense and the intelligence community and work for Mona Sutphen," the White House deputy chief of staff. "I began this enormous new challenge Sunday, a whole 24 hours after being offered and accepting the position."

So much for your dream job. The moral of this story? In Washington, it's important to be nice to everyone.

Doings at HHS . . .

The incoming secretary of health and human services, Tom Daschle, is busy assembling a team to run the sprawling $707 billion department, our colleague Ceci Connolly reports.

Certain to be given a top post is Jeanne Lambrew. The University of Texas professor co-wrote Daschle's health policy book, and the pair have been working together at John Podesta's Center for American Progress. Lambrew, who spent eight years in the Clinton administration, could be named deputy secretary or assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, the department's in-house think tank.

Two other veterans of the Clinton administration, Kenneth Thorpe, a professor at Emory University, and Judith Feder, who recently lost a bid for Congress in Virginia, have had conversations with transition officials. Either would be well suited to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Dora Hughes, a physician who worked on the Hill for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), was with Obama throughout the campaign and is poised for a leading role.

It's unlikely physician Julie Gerberding will stay on as head of the government's premier public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The Obama-ites are not enamored of her work on climate change or abstinence, to name two issues.)

But Carolyn Clancy, a moderate appointed by Bush to run the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, could well remain in that post. The agency, which has been in the forefront of "comparative effectiveness" research, is expected to take on a higher profile as Obama searches for cost-effective ways to provide health care to more Americans.

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