Unlocked from the Cabinet

Marc Abrams

So Kari’s post about who should be VPs got me thinking: how does Obama show he’s got the experience to match up with McSame?  How about by naming his cabinet during the campaign?  So here’s the idea ─ suggest who you’d put in the Obama Cabinet.  One thing’s for sure: the GOP couldn’t touch the excitement of a democratic cabinet.  Here’s some thoughts to kick this off…

State:  Gov. Bill Richardson (NM) (former UN Ambassador and Energy Sec.)

Treasury: Mayor Michael Bloomberg (NY) (only nominally “R”)

Defense:  Ex-Sen. Sam Nunn (GA) (only, we gotta finally let him have this…)

AG: Ex-Sen. John Edwards (NC) (my Veep choice, but he’s out of the running…or is he?)

HHS:  Sen. Hillary Clinton (give her the job of fixing health insurance!)

Transportation: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR)

Homeland Security: can we disband this one?

What are your picks for these?  For Agriculture, Interior, Commerce, Labor, HUD, Energy (shouldn’t this become Environment and Energy?), Education, Veterans’ Affairs?

Comments

  • James X. (unverified)
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    It's usually seen as bad form to be publicly selecting your cabinet before the voters have made their decision.

    Of course, it's also usually seen as bad form to be publicly campaigning for the vice presidency, too. It only shows what a hassle you'll be.

  • John Q. Progressive (unverified)
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    Well, as one of those who will be voting for him, and who last supported Edwards, it's easy to agree these as appropriate fits for Obama's politics. Of course, that just provides evidence right out of the box why Obama is no progressive. But this is Blue Oregon, home of a whole sad crew of Oregonians who work as hard as they can to delude themselves that they are progressive.

  • (Show?)

    Wave that Sickle and Hammer on Red banner high, comrade John Q. You know who is a true party member, and who is secretly a revanchist - to be thrown up against the wall when the cadres finally achieve power.

    Wave that banner high!

  • James X. (unverified)
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    I am 99.44% pure and I float, John Q.

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    Secretary of HHS is really a giant administrative job - running the biggest bureaucracy in the country (except the Pentagon and, I think, the Postal Service.)

    Personally, I think he should name John Kitzhaber as the Surgeon General - and task him with marshaling public support for universal health care.

    The Surgeon General has always taken on the task of talking to the public about the biggest threats to public health - smoking, etc.

    To me, the lack of universal health care is clearly the biggest threat to public health.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    Excellent choices for cabinet. The HHS spot is the one I would give to HRC and let her be point person on health care.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Fareed Zakaria could be an interesting SOS.

  • A. Rab. (unverified)
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    In regards to universal health care, Clinton would be better placed as the Senate leader on this issue, perhaps given a select committee on universal health care.

    For AG, I like Edwards a lot but I am not sure if he is really right for the US Attorney General. The Bush Administration has demoralized the department and undermined its basic role as a safeguard for the rule of law. Edwards was a very gifted trial attorney and an eloquent advocate for economic equality, but he has not made a mark in regards to rule of law issues. I would rather see someone like Senator Dodd or Senator Biden take on the DOJ. Edwards would probably work best as a new poverty Czar - maybe as the director of a new Office of Economic Opportunity.

    Foreign policy, Richardson would be a good fit at State, while Samantha Powers and Wes Clark would make an excellent duo as National Security Advisor and Deputy NSA (that office tends to work well with academic and military combinations). It will be interesting to see what role Obama gives the UN Ambassador. Democrats have generally elevated that position to the cabinet. Often it has been a place for senior figures who had nowhere else to go (Stevenson or Goldberg) or as a final stop before being given a department (Albright, Richardson, and potentially Holbrooke).

    I would add Joseph Stiglitz as an interesting choice for Treasury.

  • pollyana (unverified)
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    At the risk of steaming up my rose colored lenses and fully admitting that this list contains way too much testosterone, how about: Energy -Amory Lovins
    Agriculture-Wendell Berry or Senator John Testor (D-MT) Interior- former RI Senator Lincoln Chaffee or Governor John Kitzhaber Commerce-Alice Rivkin or Joseph Stieglitz
    Labor-Robert Reich
    HUD-Jerry Brown Education-Steve Jobs
    Veterans -John McCain (let's give him a job where he can get up close and personal with the lasting effects of the Iraq war and allow him to demonstrate his commitment to the veterans).

    Also, for the first Supreme Court seat out of the gates, I'd nominate the junior Senator from NY, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hopefully it will be Scalia's seat.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    I would want a young SC nominee.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    how very odd to see my cabinet picks chosen by someone else, thanks marc

    hillary might have more positive effects and from her pov power as NY Sen than HHS

  • James X. (unverified)
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    How awkward will it be for her to run for executive office against a black man again? I'm sure the incumbent Democrat would like to hold on to his seat.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Oh, sorry, for some reason I thought Chuck had said NY Gov. It's late. I'm going to bed now.

  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)
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    We have to find a place for my boy Joe Biden.

    And above all, John Frohnmayer for NEA!

  • (Show?)

    I know that it was mentioned that Obama supported the idea of a poverty czar in the cabinet. Edwards would be a great fit there - that's the issue that drew me to support him in the first place. That's my number one issue, as it touches on so many other issues.

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    I think the last presidential candidate to start naming potential cabinet appointments during the campaign was Tom Dewey. For some reason, no one since has decided to follow that model.

    The one thing I would suggest, however, is that Obama not take serioiusly his citation of Lincoln's model in selecting a cabinet. Although I've not read Doris Kearns Goodwin's book on this topic, I think the most generous assessment of the Lincoln cabinet is that the United States is lucky to have survived it. Prima donna's who put their own egos and political ambitions ahead of loyalty to the President is not a recipe for a cohesive administration or sound governance.

    And as for push for Hillary as V.P., that's starting to sound a lot like the same kind of "dream ticket" that was almost foised off on Reagan when he came within a hairbreadth of picking Gerald Ford to be his "co-president."

  • Rose Wilde (unverified)
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    Steve Jobs for Secretary of Education???!!! Whoa, has the office slid to such a low point of professionalism because of the recent lackluster appointees? Still, could we at least have someone who actually has a BA in the field?

    Just saying...

    So if we're gonna to be Pollyanna about it, I nominate Mary Leighton, Ph.D.(UO, no less), for the job. Okay, (admitting nepotism) she's my mom and a "mere" high school principal, but boy she would shake things up in DC. Too bad Oregon has her for good now.

    But seriously, can we think of someone for Dept. of Ed that can rescue it from No Child Left Behind? How about a strong advocate for civic education and addressing educational disparities?

  • selenesmom (unverified)
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    I'd like to better understand the rationale for putting HRC in charge of health care again. This is not meant as a personal dig against her -- I'm speaking as someone who was out of the country the first time she had that portfolio and who has since learned only that it didn't fly and that Brad De Long, who is not a nutjob and who worked with her on it, believes that she didn't manage the process effectively. I'd like to educate myself on the other side of the story, if anyone wants to point me in that direction.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    I have to agree with Jack. And selecting former presidential contenders seems arbitrary and unimaginative, like the selections of an uninformed person who only knows the faces that were on the teevee. Just because they wanted to be president does not make them the best cabinet choices.

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    Actually, I suggested Richardson because of his days at the UN and because of his time at Energy, a department with a significant national portfolio, not because he ran for President. I suggested John Edwards because a vision of justice in America driven by an understanding of the conditions of the much less fortunate would be a welcome antidote to the GOP, not because he ran for President (I'd take him in the cabinet at Labor too). I suggested Hillary for health care because she does have immense talent, has made health care her issue, probably has learned from the missteps of 1993-94, and would be a good fit for the portfolio, not becasue she ran for President. James X, if you've got ideas, post them, don't merely call mine unimaginative. Besides, this is supposed to be a "soft" post, so lighten up!

  • Larry McD (unverified)
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    I posted this on my now semi-defunct blog back in January. It's my dream team for the next four years...

    CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICES: President Barack Obama Vice President Russell Feingold Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi Senate Majority Leader Thomas Dodd

    CABINET / CABINET LEVEL OFFICES: Secretary of State Joseph Biden Secretary of the Treasury Barney Frank or Michael Bloomberg Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Attorney General Johnny Edwards Secretary of the Interior Mary Aitcheson Gore Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Sibelius Secretary of Commerce Jennifer Granholm Secretary of Labor David Bonior Secretary of Health & Human Services Loretta Sanchez Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Gary Locke Secretary of Transportation Peter DeFazio or Earl Blumnauer Secretary of Energy Federico Peña Secretary of Education Eleanor Holmes Norton Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Max Cleland Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano Environmental Protection Agency Marcia Arnoff (EDF)

    Director of National Intelligence Jane Harmon

    OK, John Q. Let's all stand and sing the Internationale in four part harmony.

    P.S. I'm pretty sure Bloomberg is now an Independent.

  • Floyd (unverified)
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    While it’s true first the voters elect, then the winner selects, I imagine most Cabinet positions – under any of the respective candidates – are already settled, just kept under wraps. Be that as it may, another Cabinet position (in addition to DHS) I think needs to be eliminated is the Office of National Drug Control Policy, ONDCP, now headed by Drug Czar John Walters, formerly headed by such rightwing lug nuts as Bill – the compulsive gambler - Bennet and Barry – highway of death - McCaffery.

    If we have to have a drug czar, I hear Tommy Chong is available.

    Floyd Ferris Landrath, Portland, Oregon

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Secretary of State: General Curtis LeMay, ret. (deceased) Secretary of Defense: General Jack D. Ripper Attorney General: Karl Rove Secretary of the Treasury: Grover Norquist Secretary of the Interior: James Watt Secretary of Agriculture: Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Secretary of Commerce: Thomas Sowell Secretary of Labor: Pinkerton Detective Services, LLC Health and Human Services: CEO of RJ Reynolds HUD: Halliburton Inc. Transportation: alternates between CEOs of Ford and General Motors Energy: Dick Cheney Education: Rev. John Hagee Veterans Affairs: Paul Wolfowitz Homeland Security: I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. EPA: CEO of Union Carbide

  • (Show?)

    @selenesmom:

    I'm an Obama guy, but let me try to help you with this, anyway.

    Hillary Clinton should be Senate Majority Leader, let alone chair of a measly Senate subcommittee on Universal Healthcare, even if said subcommittee had the power to subpeona and send HMO execs and Karl Rove to supersecret prison in Bolivia.

    But putting her in charge of getting this done for us, is a no-brainer because:

    • There really isn't, nor has there ever been, any healthcare plan for the Country better than hers. Read it - I'm sure it's about a nano-click away from the top page HillaryClinton.com. I dare anyone to tell me that's not exactly what we need.

    • The last time she tried to get Universal Healthcare done, she had no real power as First Lady, and yet she was facing opposition in the form of bitter Bob Dole, who in my humble estimation should be repeatedly tased in front of his family on general principle.

    Bob Dole is an evil, miserable man, and in order to prop up his position as Republican human sacrifice for President Clinton's eventual second term, laid the groundwork during the Republican revolution of 1994 by vowing TO BILL CLINTON'S PRESIDENTIAL FACE to act as doorstop to any major initiative the President put forth, ESPECIALLY on healthcare, just because he thought Hillary Clinton was uppity.

    This while his partner Gingrich pumped quarter after quarter into the Random Imaginary Scandal slot machine, hoping to hit cherries.

    I prologue all that to say that no one with a great idea should have to have it killed under those circumstances, and to offer you the following analogy:

    If you can't beat Tiger Woods at golf, it doesn't mean you should give up the game.

  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)
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    Bernie Giusto should head Homeland Security.

  • joeldanwalls (unverified)
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    Actually, put Bernie Giusto in charge of Guantanamo Bay.

    Some other recommendations:

    Office of Faith-Based Initiatives: Gen. Richard Petraeus Ambassador to the United Nations: Ron Paul Surgeon General: Lord Voldemort

  • Dan (unverified)
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    Actually Kari, Homeland Security is now the largest bureaucracy in the US, not HHS.

    I love the Joseph Stiglitz for Treasury idea. That guy is brilliant.

    VP? Biden.

    SOS? Richardson, though I question his "clutchness".

  • (Show?)

    One thing Senator Clinton has talked openly about is the mistakes she made as first lady with the health care plan, what she learned from that process, etc. She's already shown from her plan that she has indeed learned from that process, and made changes in her plan to accommodate some of the roadblocks she ran into before.

    While I don't agree with her on everything, and am a strong Obama supporter, I do think that she would do a good job in fighting for an excellent health care plan for America. It's her number one issue and something she is very passionate about. I would definitely trust her to do a good job in this area.

    I think that this is an area where Obama can look at updating how things are run in the White House - creating some positions or re-tasking current ones so that he can bring in people who would work good and hard in an area to improve the country. The two examples that immediately come to mind are Clinton on health care and John Edwards on poverty.

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    I wouldn't sacrifice Hillary Clinton's voice in the Senate, especially since she could do both that and take the lead on health care with a leadership position and some able lieutenants in both places.

  • Ernie D (unverified)
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    Here are my thoughts.

    State: Anthony Zinni (General, USMC Ret.) or Bill Richardson Treasury: Brad DeLong (Professor of Economics at U.C Berkeley) Defense: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) and less likely Sen. Biden AG: Rep. Artur Davis Education Czar: Michael Bloomberg Commerce: Harold Ford Jr. (or somewhere else) HHS: John Edwards Veterans: Max Cleland Energy: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Agriculture: Sen. Tom Harkin (R) or Tom Daschle Transportation: Rep. Earl Blumenauer or Sen. Susan Collins (R) Labor: Dick Gephardt Homeland Security: Wesley Clark

    also... U.N. Ambassador: Al Gore

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    James Howard Kunstler: Secretary of Energy

    Jonathan Kozol: Secretary of Education

    Dennis Kucinich: Secretary of Peace

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    Kunstler: Nice pick! If not Energy, HUD or Transportation would be fine by me.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Sorry, Ernie, but Max Cleland was head of the VA once before, and I knew veterans who thought he did a lousy job--even if he did become a hero in the 21st century.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Larry, don't you mean Chris Dodd?

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    I already know what sort of outrage this comment will provoke, but I am the only one who notices that there are few women and minorities making the lists (generally speaking)? Even the Dark Lord--uh, sorry, I mean George W. Bush--appointed quite a few women and minorities to his Cabinet. NOT to be singing the praises of anyone like Condi Rice, say, but Dubya did sort of break the mold of past GOP Cabinets, at least in this sense.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    I'm late to get back to this thread, but I wasn't criticizing Marc, I was criticizing Obama. I expect him to do more digging than any of us and find excellent candidates who aren't media stars.

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    Why are fellow Democrats so keen on gutting every halfway familiar/popular Senator or Member of Congress to fill a fantasy-football cabinet list?

    There are no Senate seats we can really afford to give up to fill cabinet posts. The closest to doing that would be reasonable would be something like picking former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) to be VO (which really helps the electoral math (even though it is a likely Dem pick-up in Nov.)

  • Tribley (unverified)
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    What a ridiculous idea, one which could only spring out of the cotton-candy head of a lefty living on Fantasy Island. There are dozens of reasons why a candidate would NOT want to name his/her cabinet in advance. Among them: each proposed cabinet member would be a potential source of embarrassing revelations and headlines. Remember Zoe Baird? All it takes is one "scandal", no matter how ludicrous, to dominate the news cycle for days.
    I particularly love the naive, politically brain dead idea of naming a bunch of sitting senators to the cabinet. Aside from the fact that most Senators are not necessarily good executives (ask Jon Corzine about the temperamental mismatch), why on earth would we want to deplete our numbers in the Senate? One super-crunchy commenter suggested appointing Chris Dodd--lovely, just give Jodi Rell (hello, the republican governor of Connecticut) the chance to appoint a republican to the office. Until liberals get more realistic and politically savvy, we'll remain much less popular than our policy ideas.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Tribley, you're right, this is why we really need Bernie Giusto at Homeland Security. (Well, if you're not in Multnomah County, that'll be meaningless....) He won't deplete the Senate of Democrats, and good gawd, all of his tawdry scandals are already out in public view. He's ready on Day One!

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    Joe Biden is an idiot blowhard war-enabler who is much too friendly to the idea of American empire. Jane Harmon is soft on torture. Harold Ford is a sell-out DLCer. Tom Harkin is a Democrat, and was reckoned the most left-populist candidate in the field '92, if memory serves.

  • MCT (unverified)
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    Once again I have entered a good conversation too late! But Marc hit a nerve for me. Great choices for important positions....BUT I feel like the dog listening to human conversation in the old Gary Larson cartoon. (Don't take this the wrong way Marc!)...all I heard was blah blah blah blah blah "disband Homeland Security" blah blah. Whoa! THAT got my attention! Whoohoo! THERE'S a move in the right direction. Let's repeal the Patriot Act first, and thereby neutralize and negate the very platform of Homeland Security. At that point everyone would have to see its functions as redundancies of existing Cabinet Depts. If only it would be as easy to get rid of as it was to create!

    As for the rest, all I'm passionate about is seeing John Edwards as a real fire-in-the-belly Atty Gen.

  • Larry McD (unverified)
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    Thanks LT. I did indeed mean Chris Dodd. Tells you how old I am... I'm doddering!!!

    By the way, I came across a note in my wanderings that says the reason candidates can't name their candidates before the election is that there's a federal law against promising somebody a government job in exchange for their support in an election. They might be able to defend successfully against that charge, but it would almost inevitably be made and complicate the election.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    No old Cold Warriors in the State Dept. or Defense Dept., please, Sam Nunn or otherwise. Talk about having cramped perspectives; talk about who led us into the Iraq invasion. We desperately need people running these departments, which are the ones that most look outward to the rest of the world, who can treat other countries with respect, not just as playgrounds for the US military. One absolute minimal requirement should be that the State and Defense secretaries be people who can speak at least one foreign language! (Note that Condi Rice, for all her shortcomings, fulfills this criterion. So did Madeleine Albright.)

  • Larry McD (unverified)
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    Well, well, Trilby..

    After re-scanning this entire series of comments I'm pretty sure that mine is the only "super-chrunchy comment" that mentions Chris Dodd and if you actually take time to read the comment it suggests that Obama should use his influence to get Chris Dodd elected to the office of <u>Senate Majority Leader</u>...

    Last time I looked at the Constitution that would not require Governor Rell to appoint anybody.

    "Super-crunchy" your asterisk.

  • Ernie D (unverified)
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    LT,

    Max Cleland led the Veterans Administration under President Carter from 1977 to 1981. That's a long time ago and he's learned much since then, including his work in the Senate (1997-2003).

    He's a symbol for the sacrifices soldiers make in war and I believe would do an excellent job administratively and reverse the lack of respect Bush/Cheney have shown toward soldiers.

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