President Obama is reportedly set to nominate California Representative Ellen Tauscher for the post of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
If you consult Ms. Tauscher's biography, her work on arms control and non-proliferation makes its first appearance in the 12th paragraph (in a bio with 14 paragraphs overall). Her work in this area is apparently not as important as her work on Wall Street, her leadership on the Transportation Committee (including getting funding for a tunnel in her district), or her work on public school funding - all of which get prominent mention before non-proliferation issues.
Ms. Tauscher's qualifications for the State Department position seem to include her chairmanship of an unrelated subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee (for 2 years) and her introduction of several pieces of legislation on the subject. In Washington, that certainly qualifies her for the job, but it would be a stretch to say she's the most qualified. It's also interesting that while Tauscher chaired a subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee, she is not being nominated to an appropriate position at the Defense Department; instead, she's headed to State Department.
There's another interesting thing about Ms. Tauscher: she is the sponsor of legislation to undo the military's 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy. She reintroduced the legislation on March 3 -- about two weeks before her nomination was announced. It has 134 cosponsors as of today - nearly one-third of the House, just a few weeks after introduction. When she introduced the bill, she planned to hold hearings to educate the public, and suggested that Secretary Powell could lead the effort to sell repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. It seems as if Ms. Tauscher had done a good job of laying the groundwork for an effort to repeal the measure in the House.
So why did Barack Obama choose to elevate a leader for repealing the ban on gays in the military, to a position where she would lose all influence over the matter?
On a related note, The Advocate wonders who will be the next leader in the House on the issue; it seems there's no clear favorite to take up the mantle. They also point out that due to Senator Kennedy's health issues, there is currently no leader in the Senate. And Lawrence Korb says it may take some time for Tauscher's 'successor' on the issue to emerge, since her confirmation process is likely to take months. So for the foreseeable future, the White House has sidelined the debate on repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
If I had supported Barack Obama because he promised to allow gays to serve openly in the military, I sure would be disappointed today. It's a shame they couldn't pick someone other than Ms. Tauscher for such an important post.