Looking Under LaHood

The New York Times asks the question Planetizen readers have been asking for months: Who is this Ray LaHood, and how did he become the choice for Secretary of Transportation?
May 6, 2009, 10am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"[O]ne of the astonishing things about Mr. LaHood, 63, is how limited his transportation résumé is, how little excitement he exudes on the subject (other than about high-speed rail) and how little he seems to care who knows it. So why exactly did President Obama pick this former seven-term Republican congressman from Illinois to oversee everything that moves?

Mr. LaHood posits a theory. "They picked me because of the bipartisan thing," he explained, "and the Congressional thing, and the friendship thing."

The "bipartisan thing" and the "Congressional thing" are self-evident: Mr. LaHood is a Republican with close ties to Capitol Hill. One White House insider described Mr. LaHood as "a master of odd jobs," whose knowledge of Washington allows him to take on assignments as varied as lobbying lawmakers on the budget and helping political novices in the cabinet navigate Beltway social rituals ("cocktail situations," as Energy Secretary Steven Chu calls them).

"The friendship thing" perhaps most explains why Mr. LaHood is in his job. The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is one of Mr. LaHood's closest friends, and wanted him around. Mr. Obama told Mr. LaHood as much when Mr. LaHood interviewed for the job in December."

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Published on Monday, May 4, 2009 in The New York Times
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