On Friday’s “NewsHour” on PBS, New York Times columnist David Brooks, the conservative component of the paper’s op-ed pages, praised President Barack Obama’s nomination of Sylvia Mary Mathews Burwell, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, to be the next Health and Human Services secretary.
Partial transcript as follows:
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST PBS’s “NEWSHOUR”: Will she get some of the credit, though, David, if this works out in the long, long run?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I guess so. I — if it works out in the long, long run, I mean, we remember Frances Perkins, who was instrumental in passing Social Security. And she gets credit for that. So, I think if it works out in the long, long run, which I’m skeptical about, that she will get some credit about it. Mark’s right. I wasn’t — haven’t been thrilled with the way the president sort of off-loaded blame during the whole Web page fiasco. I thought he publicly shouldn’t have done that. He should have said — taken it on himself, just as a management, as a leadership technique. I think it’s fair to say a couple of things. First, she was — with all the reputation that has gone on, and it’s very negative about her around Washington, she was certainly not a dynamo at HHS. And, sometimes, to move an organization, you have to be just a — just a dynamo. And it seems that she was not that. Nonetheless, it’s also true that secretaries do not run their agencies, that the agencies run their agencies, and the secretaries can have only a limited effect on what’s going on.
WOODRUFF: You mean the bureaucracy.
BROOKS: The bureaucracy, the career people, are really running the thing. And it was always going to be hard to get government workers, who are not Silicon Valley tech — tech geeks, to start up a pretty ambitious Web page — Web site. And, so, I’m a little less down on her than is the common currency right now in Washington.
MARK SHIELDS, CREATORS SYNDICATE COLUMNIST: I would take exception with David, in the sense that — I mean, I’m sure David talks to a lot of people. I think that Kathleen got high marks from the kind of cliques in the Cabinet, all right, in Washington. And the people whom I know and who I respect and whose performance I respect were high on Kathleen. The people who worked for her were fiercely loyal and very committed and kind of emotional in support. She was twice elected as a Democratic governor of Kansas, the reddest of Republican states, and she was one of the five best governors in the country, according to “TIME” magazine. So, I mean, she was not — she was a person of considerable accomplishment when she came here. And she was key to Barack Obama. I mean, without Barack — she — when Hillary Clinton became the woman candidate in 2007, Kathleen Sebelius was one of the few major women officeholders who endorsed Barack Obama.
WOODRUFF: That’s true. That’s true. Well, now they have named another woman, David, Sylvia Burwell, who has been running the Office of Budget and Management, to take her place. Does this allow the administration to get a fresh start with health care?
BROOKS: I don’t think the changeover of the Cabinet secretary is going to have — is going to change anybody’s opinion of what they think about the thing. It strikes me as an exceedingly good choice. Burwell overcame some early disadvantages. She went to Harvard, got a Rhodes Scholarship.
But despite that background, she’s managed to do OK in life. She worked through the Clinton years. She’s worked through the Obama years. She does around town — I have only met her a few times — but she has a sterling reputation, both for intelligence, for policy knowledge, experience, but especially for management implementation skills. So if she’s — if you walked around the Obama White House looking for people with the top reputations, she certainly would be among them.
(h/t RCP Video)
Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor