In many ways, Mary Beth Maxwell would be a stellar choice as Labor secretary, as Adam wrote yesterday. The founding director of American Rights at Work, a lobbying and research organization in support of unions, Maxwell is an articulate, fiery activist who is fully committed to the labor’s movement’s key legislative wish: passing the Employee Free Choice Act. She’d also likely push hard to step up the Department of Labor’s investigation of employers who cheat workers out of wages, a Labor mandate that the Bush administration all but ignored.
But here’s the counterargument against appointing an activist like Maxwell to the position: With the media and Obama himself focusing almost obsessively on the financial crisis and defense/security issues, there’s a real need to appoint people to the “secondary” cabinet roles who have a chance of raising the profile of their issues. Kathleen Sebelius, another name mentioned frequently as a possible Labor secretary, has become one of the most famous female politicians in America. I’ve made a similar argument about Obama’s appointment to the new White House Office of Urban Policy; I think that individual should be a high-profile advocate for urbanism. The Department of Education will also be largely ignored without a media-baiting leader.
Then again, there’s something to be said for nominees with a long career solely dedicated to the issue at hand. You can see Maxwell in action in the video below, and she’s certainly more than compelling — but not in a way the MSM is very likely to cover.
cross-posted at TAPPED