The official announcement earlier today from Hillary Clinton's presidential team that Dick Gephardt had decided to play on her side also contained word that he gets a couples of titles: campaign co-chair and economic advisor.
The co-chair gig is honorific; the advisor's post --- even just on a surface level --- is worth contemplating.
Gephardt established his national profile in the late 1980s as the quintessential "old school" Democrat on economic policy: strongly pro-labor, highly skeptical of big business, deeply concerned that the globalization of trade was hurting U.S. workers.
As a Democratic House leader, he led, and lost, fights against President Bill Clinton's push for the North American Free Trade Agreement, in 1993, and normalization of commercial relations with China, in 2000.
Many of the White House aides and officials who twisted arms and browbeat fellow Democrats to get those measures passed signed up for Hillary Clinton's campaign ages ago. Now, presumably, Gephardt will be adding his voice to their discussions. We'd love to be a fly on the wall for those conversations.
Hillary Clinton, cognizant of the criticism from some Democratic quarters of her husband's trade policies, already has strayed from what was the company line during his presidency. She has expressed misgivings about how NAFTA has panned out. Recently, she came out against a pending trade accord with South Korea, earning (qualified) plaudits from several progressive activists, including David Sirota and Jonathan Tasini.
Still, these and many others on the left will be watching to see whether Gephardt's advisory role is mainly window-dressing.
-- Don Frederick