Cecilia Muñoz has been named White House domestic policy adviser, making the move from the White House’s Intergovernmental Affairs shop. IGA is more of a liaison position, while the DPC job is one of the most important policy positions in government. Before serving in the Obama White House, Muñoz worked at the liberal pro-immigration group La Raza, and she also has won a MacArthur “genius” award back in 2000 for her role as a “civil-rights-policy analyst.” I don’t ever recall a MacArthur winner securing so senior a governmental post in the Bush administration, but it is apparently quite common in the Obama administration, as other Team Obama MacArthur winners include: Surgeon General Regina Benjamin; White House Science Adviser John Holdren; Commerce Under Secretary Jane Lubchenco; and Science Advisory Committee Co-Chair Eric Lander.
Many of the articles on Muñoz’s ascension, such as the ones by Elise Foley in the Huffington Post and Carrie Budoff Brown in Politico, focus on Muñoz’s standing as a key liaison to the Hispanic community, and Obama’s need to secure a large majority of the Hispanic vote for his reelection effort. This is a significant issue for the administration, as there has already been some grumbling about Obama’s stance on immigration issues from Hispanic activists on the left. Foley cites Presente.org’s Roberto Lovato’s October warning that Muñoz is “the face of the Obama administration to the Latino community. So if they’re going to put her out there to criminalize immigrants, then they shouldn’t be surprised when the community starts fighting back to combat the lies.”
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the Muñoz appointment has nothing to do with Muñoz per se, but comes from this observation by Politico’s Brown: “The White House is increasingly looking for ways to shape policy through executive actions and outside legislative channels, and Muñoz will play a role in that process.” This planned circumvention of Congress is one reason you see President Obama continuing to make controversial recess appointments in powerful regulatory agencies that can make policy without going through that bothersome legislative process. According to a senior Republican Senate aide I spoke with, “Obama is looking for people willing to make active regulatory efforts. If they succeed, he gets his lefty policies; if they fail, he gets to paint Republicans as evil.” In her new position, Muñoz will apparently be tasked with helping to direct those efforts.