A grassroots effort is underway for Barack Obama to appoint Tammy Duckworth, a veteran of the Iraq War and onetime congressional candidate, as Secretary of Veterans' Affairs in his incoming administration.
Democratic-leaning veterans groups are pushing the appointment among activists and reporters, even launching a petition drive to get Duckworth into the administration.
"If Tammy was offered the Secretary of the VA, she'd excel at it," said Jon Soltz, the head of the veterans group VoteVets.org and one of the leading advocates for a Duckworth appointment. "She uniquely understands the issues facing not just older generations of veterans, but our newest veterans as well."
Indeed, Duckworth would be well situated to take on the post. Not just because she has served in Iraq (where she lost both her legs) and currently heads the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, but also because she has strong ties to Obama's inner circle.
During her unsuccessful 2006 run for Congress, Duckworth employed many of the individuals who played prominently roles on the Democratic presidential campaign. David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, was an adviser to Duckworth. Rahm Emanuel, Obama's incoming chief of staff, was one the loudest voices encouraging Duckworth to run. (Emanuel was, at the time, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee). Sen. Dick Durbin, one of Obama's closest colleagues in the Senate, encouraged Duckworth's entry into the congressional race. And Jon Carson, Obama's National Field Director, actually ran Duckworth's campaign. Duckworth was even given a speaking slot on Wednesday night of the Democratic convention.
All this, of course, is insider wheeling-and-dealing. Duckworth brings qualifications to the post that extend well beyond the personal and political connections. And she could very well earn the appointment on these merits alone.
"You think about probably the best head of the VA we've ever had, and that was Max Cleland, who came home wounded from Vietnam, and was deeply involved in the veterans system in Georgia, then brought that experience to Washington," said Soltz. "Tammy is similar to Max in many respects, and I think what she brings to the table is too valuable to leave out in Illinois."