President Obama did not let Rep. Jim Oberstar's 35-years in Congress pass without comment - or without prompting rampant speculation about his future.
An aide to the Iron Range DFLer, known as "Mr. Transportation" in Washington, said the president called at breakfast Wednesday morning as Oberstar was digesting the news of his first loss in 19 elections.
In my long history of chronicling the self-promoting titles that Mr. Oberstar and his staff have created and convinced compliant reporters and colleagues to refer to him as, that's the first time I've heard of "Mr. Transportation".
We know of Mr. Aviation. We know of The Voice of Bicyclists in the Nation. We know of the Father of Safe Routes. We know of the Sultan of Spandex Tights. (Although I'm the only one who calls him that last one).
But "Mr. Transportation"!? That is a significant upgrade from the niche (and crevice) areas of influence he previously seized for himself. In fact, that's the whole enchilada. The ultimate in locomotion related titles. There's nowhere to go from Mr. Transportation!
Or is there?
Staffers who were gathered with Oberstar at the Duluth Holiday Inn heard Oberstar tell Obama, "Mr. President, I want you to know that while my service in Congress has ended, my commitment to public service has not, and I’m ready to assist your administration in any way."
To which, the president reportedly replied, "Let's let the dust settle and talk again."
The Star Tribune reporter took this to mean that perhaps Oberstar would be offered the position of Secretary of Transportation in the near future. This seems plausible. The turn over rate for cabinet secretaries in any administration is high and the current TranSec is an undistinguished Republican, originally brought in for the appearance of bi-partisanship when the Obama administration still cared about such things. The circumstances of Oberstar getting thrown out by his constituents after 36 years in Congress provide additional motivation. In my opinion, his highly conspicuous vote for ObamaCare, in opposition to his long-promoted "pro-life" stance, cost him this race. Since Oberstar was there when Obama needed him, a little quid pro quo might be in play here.
Maybe Oberstar's final title will be Secretary of Transportation. Which would actually be a positive development for the country, since he'll merely be in a position of executing a budget of untold hundreds of billions every year instead of setting it with an eye on massive increases year after year.