Bobby Jindal as HHS secretary would really be the “odd couple” of politics. No Republican candidate in the 2016 election criticized Trump more forcefully (but not to his face) than Jindal, calling him an “unserious and unstable narcissist.”
But stay with me here. Jindal would be the ideal replacement for Tom Price, for several reasons.
Let’s look at the short list, minus Jindal, as compiled by Axios and POLITICO. Scott Gottlieb, the current FDA commissioner, is on top. Gottlieb has the government and educational credentials for the job, and frankly, would likely be a shoe-in for Senate confirmation. He’s the obvious choice, which is one reason Trump should not use him.
Gottlieb is the backup–the failsafe plan. Plus, he’s valuable at the FDA, which tends toward cronyism and lobbyist influence.
David Shulkin is already under fire at the VA, for some of the same things that forced Price out of office. The media has already smelled blood in the water, as streiff at RedState calls it, about Shulkin’s travel to a European conference along with a few days of leave and Wimbledon, along with his wife. Though this may very well be above-board and proper, there’s just too much low-hanging fruit for the press here. Pass.
Seema Verma is on Jonathan Swan’s list but not POLITICO’s. She is the Democrat’s pick, in fact the liberal-approved version of Bobby Jindal, who currently heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Mark Joseph Stern at Slate called her the “least dogmatic official who could possibly lead HHS.”
That means Verma is the “Chuck and Nancy” pick. She’d probably be confirmed on the backs of Democrats seeking someone they could hope to bridge the gap on Obamacare. If Vice President Mike Pence pushed for her, she might get the nod, but would need some convincing.
Marsha Blackburn or John Barrasso have also been floated, but why would Trump want to go with someone from Congress when a former Congressman just got the boot? Too swampy, I would think.
There there’s longshots like uber-lobbyist Judd Gregg, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and (really!) Dr. Mehmet Oz. Just no. John Kelly would need hospitalization, and that’s no way for a Marine to exit this world.
Why Bobby Jindal?
Since the election, Jindal has kept a low profile. He’s hit the speaking circuit, and made a living as an adviser for a global asset management firm. He’s not been in the news, either praising or criticizing Trump, yet he’s a known quantity in political circles. That’s an asset.
From the pure wonk perspective, Jindal is the best qualified person to run HHS, to craft health care policy, to shepherd legislation through Congress, and to speak intelligently on the topic without igniting a firestorm. Put more succinctly, Jindal will not become a bigger story than Trump, and can hand Trump a win.
The problems with Verma, Shulkin, and Gottlieb is that they are all bureaucrats. They’ve never run or won an election. They work with Congress from an administrative point of view. That’s the same problem Trump will have with Dan Wright, who’s now the acting HHS secretary.
Trump needs an experienced politician to make good on his promises. He can’t do it himself, and the generals with whom he’s surrounded himself are as lost as sheep outside the pen dealing with health care issues. Congress has made a festering mess out of the whole process, and cannot be trusted to do anything in the next three years.
Anyone associated with Congress falls into the same trap.
Why would Bobby Jindal take the position, knowing who he’ll be working for, and the almost impossible expectations of the job?
Well, Bobby if you’re reading this: do it for your country, and your fellow Louisianans. Do it because you like a challenge. But most of all, do it because you can get it done better than anyone else.
Nobody else on Trump’s short list has the political, academic, and experiential credentials that Jindal has. If the president wants a win on healthcare, and the GOP needs this (and they do!), then Jindal is the man to choose.