SHALALA: Idiosyncratic HHS Secretary Mulls Her Legacy
"In the homestretch of her record-breaking cabinet run," HHS Secretary Donna Shalala is profiled in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which dubs the "queen of political correctness" an "adept, ubiquitous, exceedingly well-connected Washington player." Doug Besharov, a social policy expert with the American Enterprise Institute, said, "She has become one of the most successful members of the Clinton cabinet" -- an assessment Shalala agrees with, noting, "Places are different when I leave them. You can go back and do interviews at any institution I've ever been in, and ask them whether anyone noticed that I was once there." Before arriving at the HHS in 1992, Shalala led the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked in the Carter administration, but she said, "This is my last tour of duty in public life." Shalala said she is leaving behind a legacy of improved health indicators, "from immunization to teen pregnancy to infant mortality." However, Robert Rector, welfare expert for the Heritage Foundation, noted, "We started out with an HHS under Shalala that was quite liberal, with (ex-surgeon general) Jocelyn Elders talking about masturbation and condoms, denouncing abstinence education, no mention of workfare or welfare reform in (Shalala's) confirmation hearing, and no (welfare) initiatives in the first two years. Since that time, she has shifted to the right. Her HHS now says favorable things about abstinence, they even talk very occasionally about (the value of) marriage ... I think it has been a transition and she has really been dragged along rather than leading." However, Norman Ornstein, a congressional expert, noted, "For someone to go through what is likely to be eight years in that position is a remarkable accomplishment. There are a lot of mines in that job" (Gilbert, 7/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.