Thursday, December 25, 2008

My predictions about Obama’s cabinet picks

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on November 27th in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau

Today I will discuss the Republicans and Democrats who I believe are most likely to be chosen by President-elect Obama to serve either in his Cabinet or in other important positions within the new Presidential administration.
However I will begin by first sharing my insights regarding the role Hillary Clinton will play in the new Obama administration. Ever since the end of the Democratic primary contests there has repeatedly been speculation that Clinton might be asked to join Obama’s Cabinet with a healthcare portfolio if she wasn’t picked as Obama’s running mate. Such talk was based more on the hopes of some of Hillary’s erstwhile Democratic primary supporters than on any realistic assessment of the situation. But if Obama does indeed decide to follow Abraham Lincoln’s example he will most likely offer her a more important and high profile Cabinet position such as Secretary of State.
I don’t know that Bill Clinton would be interested in Hillary taking the position; but I’m sure she would find a high profile job as Secretary of State very tempting. However, in a sign that she knows Obama isn’t going to offer her a Cabinet job overseeing America’s healthcare, Clinton has already attempted to stage a takeover of future healthcare legislation in the US Senate.
But healthcare is the domain of Senator Ted Kennedy and is an issue that he has championed for many years as the head of the Senate’s health committee. Ignoring the fact that Kennedy has already been working on new healthcare legislation in line with Obama’s own healthcare plans, Clinton rather boldly attempted to hijack healthcare legislation in the Senate by asking Senator Kennedy to appoint her as the head of a new Senate sub-committee on healthcare. Clinton and her supporters viewed this as a consolation prize for losing the Presidential nomination to President-elect Obama.
But they don’t give losing Presidential candidates such prizes in the US Senate because the Senate already has sixteen current Senators who have unsuccessfully run for President including six who currently serve on Kennedy’s Health Committee. Giving Clinton the chair of a new sub-committee would have also meant ignoring the fact that two other former Democratic Presidential candidates on Senator Kennedy’s Health committee have more seniority than Clinton and in the US Senate, seniority rules.
This leads me to speculate about my second Cabinet position, that of Secretary for Health and Human Services. Given how important the healthcare issue was for Obama and other Democrats during the Presidential primary campaign, I am betting that President-elect Obama opts for a trusted confidant like former Senator Tom Daschle to fill this sensitive Cabinet post and work with Ted Kennedy on healthcare legislation.
The most likely nominees to replace Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, if Obama doesn’t pick Hillary Clinton, include two Republicans, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and soon to be retired Senator Chuck Hagel from Nebraska. Since Senator John Kerry is in line to take over Vice President Biden’s chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that leaves former Presidential candidate Bill Richardson as the other Democratic contender for this very visible and important Cabinet position.
I would be surprised if the current Republican Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates doesn’t agree to stick around for at least the next year or two as Obama’s Secretary of Defense. Gates is a Republican foreign policy realist who has tried repeatedly to shut down Guantanamo Bay over the objections of Vice President Cheney and is well respected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. But whether he stays on for a while or leaves, Gates will likely to be replaced eventually by another trusted Obama military advisor, former Secretary of the Navy, Richard Danzig. While Retired Generals Colin Powell and James Jones would also be good choices that are popular with both Republicans and Democrats, history tells me this job always goes to a civilian.
The CIA Directors job will probably be offered to Anthony Lake, who has been functioning as Obama’s top national security advisor for the past two years. If Lake was to accept such an appointment it would prove to be an ironic twist of fate given the fact President Bill Clinton had nominated him for the same position back in the nineties only to see his confirmation scuttled by Republicans who were then in control of the Senate.
One of the two top contenders for National Security Advisor would also represent a bit of déjà vu since she happens to be a black female with a Doctorate and the last name of Rice. But that would be Dr. Susan Rice, not former Bush National Security Advisor and current Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice. But I’m betting Dr. Rice is more likely to end up as United Nations Ambassador than as the second black female named Rice to hold America’s top National Security post. The other contender is Bill Clinton’s former Deputy National Security Advisor, James Steinberg, who has become a master of issues related to national security but also has a reputation for having a nasty temper.
Most intriguing of all will be Obama’s choice to replace Hank Paulson as US Treasury Secretary. The US Treasury Secretary job is not usually considered to be as important or visible a Cabinet position as the Secretary of State and Defense Secretary jobs, but this appointment will be the most avidly awaited of all of Obama’s Cabinet posts given the current state of economic affairs in the US and the rest of the world.
Former Federal Reserve Chief Paul Volker has name recognition but is probably too old to be installed in the Treasury job for more than a couple of years. A better long term choice is the current head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Tim Geithner, who has been squarely in the middle of government efforts to deal with the current crisis, or former Bill Clinton era Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
I wonder just how close I’ll come with these predictions.

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