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Speeches That Keep On Giving

By Al Kamen
Friday, February 6, 2009

A few hundred or so former and current Department of Homeland Security people are finding it much easier to get to sleep these days, thanks to a lovely present from their former boss Michael Chertoff. The gift? A truly thoughtful book, which cost the department $11,200 to put together, called "Select Speeches" -- as in a selection of speeches given by Secretary Chertoff between 2005 and 2008.

Not available in bookstores, the lovely, 315-page paperback, making the rounds in Washington recently, was given to between 200 and 300 DHS folks, putting the cost per book at $37 to $55. That may sound like a lot, but the paper that DHS used to print the book is very heavy.

There are no pictures, and there is no foreword -- nothing but a compilation of 36 of Chertoff's finest and most memorable talks, including this admonition in a speech on Oct. 1, 2005, at Princeton University:

"If we are going to arrive at a day when terrorism no longer casts a dark cloud over the civilized world, we have to be prepared to advance international cooperation to hitherto unseen heights. And that's because . . . terrorism is also spreading its ideology of hatred and intolerance around the world, and we have to match it in geographic location point by point." (No, not that we have to be equally evil. We're pretty sure he meant match it with our ideology of brotherhood and tolerance.)

There's his famous "Remarks on the Second Stage Review" in March 2006 at the Heritage Foundation, in which he talked about lessons learned from the Hurricane Katrina fiasco, saying that "the essence of preparedness is planning and integration of execution." That might be remembered long after Washington's Farewell Address is forgotten.

If you weren't lucky enough to get one of these books, remember: Chertoff is writing his own book.

ISO at HHS

So many names, but so few options.

The White House is finding that it won't be so easy to fill Thomas A. Daschle's considerable shoes leading President Obama's ambitious health-care agenda at the Department of Health and Human Services. New names for the secretary's job are pouring in, and just about every potential candidate seems to carry baggage.

There are veteran Washington insiders, such as Richard A. Gephardt and Bill Bradley. But Gephardt, former House Democratic leader and twice an unsuccessful presidential candidate, has been enjoying the Daschle lifestyle as counsel at a cushy law firm. And Bradley, a former senator and presidential candidate, has cycled through consulting and investment-banking firms.

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick were both early backers of Obama. Sebelius has said she wants to remain in Kansas, and Patrick issued a mea culpa in 2007 after spending thousands of government dollars on new decor and furnishings in his corner office as well as a lease on a $46,000 Cadillac.

There's been buzz about Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, founder of a Nashville-based health-care management company, but there's already an anti-Bredesen movement.

Former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, who was a practicing physician before entering politics, seems to fit the mold. Since leaving office in 2003, he has been involved in progressive health-care issues, but it's unclear whether he wants to join the Cabinet. Up on the Hill, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) are said to be in the mix, and the Connecticut liberal could bring some fashion pizazz to Cabinet meetings.

There's always family doc Howard Dean. The former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee chairman was not shy about wanting to join Obama's administration, but the president never came a-knockin'.

Obama may well turn to the private sector, where a handful of innovators stand out, including the chief executives of the Mayo Clinic (Denis Cortese), the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan (George C. Halvorson) and the Geisinger Health System (Glenn Steele). All three are MDs who have been involved in the health policy debate, but none has much political experience, and health insiders wonder how deferential any of them would be when summoned to testify on Capitol Hill.

Lastly, there's a dark horse: Ezekiel Emanuel, a leading oncologist at the National Institutes of Health who has published widely on health reform. Of course, he could get a lift from his little brother -- White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

A Countability Move

Obama has decided to have the director of the Census Bureau report directly to the White House, the administration said yesterday, a move that comes as the bureau prepares to conduct the critical 2010 census that will determine redistricting of congressional seats.

Under the Bush administration, the agency's director reported to the commerce secretary. But Obama is adding oversight by senior White House aides, although the Census Bureau formally will remain under the umbrella of the Commerce Department, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said.

After Obama nominated a Republican, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, as commerce secretary, Latino advocates voiced concern about his overseeing the politically delicate task of determining the nation's population. But LaBolt suggested that Obama's changes to the organizational structure have been long in the making. So, this would have happened if New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had gotten the job? Really?

With Philip Rucker

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