With the announcement that Tom Daschle has been selected as the Obama administration's Secretary of Health and Human Services speculation about the down market appointments has accelerated. For this audience, of course, everyone is nattering on about the next Director of the NIH. My nattering sources are moving in the direction of Elizabeth Nabel, M.D. current Director of NHLBI, but that's just vague speculation.
One of my correspondents reminded me of a non-HHS appointment that is VERY important for NIDA funded scientists and indeed everyone interested in drug abuse issues.
Who will be the next Drug Czar?
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) About page:
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), a component of the Executive Office of the President, was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.
The principal purpose of ONDCP is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the Nation's drug control program. The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.
As part of the mission the ONDCP takes a pronounced interest in what NIDA is doing.
My appreciation for this is not the greatest but I can say that I've heard two Drug Czars address the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and they have differed substantially. Gen (Ret) Barry McCaffrey displayed what seemed to be a very good knowledge of the drug abuse science, from basic to treatment research. Also a good appreciation for the balance of scientific knowledge about the nature of drug abuse. The current Czar, John P. Walters, came across as an uninformed knee-jerk anti-drug political person.
I'd prefer the former type of person, of course.
Barack Obama admits to adolescent drug use, is (apparently) a nicotine addict and expressed himself on the campaign train as nuanced on drug issues. Of course, drug issues were barely even a factor in this campaign. Nevertheless, he is a good bet to take an informed approach to the selection of a Drug Czar.
OTOH, apparently Joe Biden has a bit of a track record as a punitive hard acre* when it comes to drug policy and was apparently heavily involved in the initial creation of the ONDCP.
So it will be interesting to see if the ONDCP and the drug issue are given to Biden or not...
*Updated: Hmm, on further review I may have only poorly considered Biden's most recent record. You can see the anti-Biden positions here and here. Nevertheless, he introduced a bill in 2007 to rename the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction and another one to redress the sentencing disparity between crack and powder forms of cocaine. So that seems like he's on the more reasonable side of things.
Update 01/07/09: TierneyLab on the objections to Ramstad who is being floated as potential Drug Czar.