Political Notebook

Sebelius may fill void in Cabinet

February 19, 2009
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President Obama has focused on Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, an early ally with a record of working across party lines, as his top choice for secretary of health and human services, advisers said yesterday.

Should she be nominated, Sebelius would bring eight years of experience as her state's insurance commissioner as well as six years as a governor running a state Medicaid program.

But with Obama about to begin a drive to expand health coverage, an issue on which the two parties have deep ideological divisions, her strongest asset in the view of the White House may be her record of navigating partisan politics as a Democrat in one of the country's most Republican states.

Sebelius resolved a state budget crisis Tuesday and plans to be in Washington from Saturday through Tuesday for a meeting of the National Governors' Association.

Asked about the Cabinet job, her spokeswoman, Beth Martino, said the governor was "focused on the economic challenges currently facing Kansas, including our state budget and the impacts of the federal stimulus package."

Obama's first pick for the job, former senator Tom Daschle, withdrew over his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes until nominated, provoking a storm of criticism and a presidential mea culpa.


N.Y. Post cartoon on chimp, stimulus plan draws rebuke
NEW YORK - A New York Post editorial cartoon that some have interpreted as comparing President Obama to a violent chimpanzee gunned down by police drew outrage yesterday from civil rights leaders and elected officials who said it echoed racist stereotypes of blacks as monkeys.

The cartoon in yesterday's Post by Sean Delonas shows a chimp splayed on the ground in a pool of blood. Two police officers stand over the body, one holding a smoking gun, and the second saying, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

While Democrats and a handful of Republicans in Congress wrote the $787 billion stimulus bill, Obama championed it and signed it Tuesday. The cartoon also appears to refer to Travis, the pet chimpanzee that was shot to death by police in Stamford, Conn., on Monday after it mauled a friend of its owner.

Some critics called the cartoon racist and said it trivialized a tragedy in which a woman was disfigured and a chimpanzee killed. Others said the cartoon suggests that Obama, the nation's first black president, should be assassinated.

"How could the Post let this cartoon pass as satire?" asked Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists. "To compare the nation's first African-American commander in chief to a dead chimpanzee is nothing short of racist drivel."

The Rev. Al Sharpton said that the cartoon is "troubling at best."

The Post stood by the cartoon.

"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut," editor-in-chief Col Allan said in a statement. "It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy."



Obama asks Gregg to join 'fiscal responsibility' talks
President Obama is apparently not one to hold grudges.

Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, did a stunning about-face last week and withdrew as the new president's nominee for commerce secretary.

But Obama is inviting him back to the White House for a "fiscal responsibility summit" Monday that will tackle issues dear to Gregg.

"My goal for the summit will be to address the long-term fiscal tsunami that is headed our way as a result of the cost of making payments to the baby boom generation through health and retirement entitlement programs," Gregg said in a statement.

In withdrawing his name, Gregg said he concluded he had too many policy differences with Obama, including on the $787 billion stimulus plan that the president signed Tuesday.


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