With Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick poised to name someone to fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, liberal bloggers are rallying behind an unusual possibility: Atul Gawande, a surgeon and New Yorker staff writer. Gawande has limited political experience (he did serve as a young aide in the Clinton administration) but he certainly has expertise on health care, Kennedy's signature issue. Would Senator Gawande be a great idea or a bone-headed one?
- He'd be the Senate's Preeminent Expert Think Progress chief Faiz Shakir first proposed the idea, calling Gawande "An articulate and eloquent speaker on health matters" and "unquestionably one of the nation’s leading health policy experts." Shakir endorsed hard. "On the day he would step foot in the Senate, Dr. Gawande would be the most knowledgeable health policy expert in the chamber, an incredible resource for his fellow Senate colleagues, and a champion for reform," he wrote. "And then, he can retire honorably and go back to his day job."
- Good Move for Policy and Politics The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg praised it as "a stunningly great idea" and "simply brilliant" for both Gawande's health care expertise and the political relief it would give Gov. Patrick. "It would relieve Governor Deval Patrick of having to choose among the politicians currently clamoring for his attention like so many baby birds," he wrote. "Sending Dr. G to the rescue would be like parachuting in a specially trained commando on a crucial mission."
- Lack of Political Ambition Would Empower Gawande Matthew Yglesias noted Gawande would be unencumbered by reelection considerations. "Someone holding a Senate seat during a critical period but with no future political ambitions would have a pretty unique opportunity to play a kind of bold leadership role if the Senator in question were someone with the knowledge and credibility to really contribute to the debate."
- But Can he Make Sausage? Ezra Klein worried Gawande might not be as equipped for the politics as the policy, though Klein still likes the idea. "I'd worry that Atul himself would find it a bit of a disappointing experience, as knowing stuff is not likely to matter much at this stage in the process, and may just make the final weeks of the legislative sausage-grinder more stomach-turning. But it would be a bulletproof choice, and would certainly lead to a great New Yorker article."
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