Have you ever wondered what our Cabinet would look like if we just picked the best people for the job, regardless of party, race and gender?
Suppose we looked for brains, expertise, competence, political skill, and a track record of good judgment. Suppose we ignored patronage, “balancing the ticket,” and all the other political factors that perpetuate incompetence and corruption. Then we might have a Cabinet that looks like this:
President: Barack Obama. Of all candidates in either party, he’s got the best record of good judgment on vital issues: on Iraq, on terrorism, on health care, and on the need for national unity and how to get there. He’s also energetic, brilliant, thoughtful, superbly educated, empathetic, centrist, non-ideological, politically charismatic, sympathetic to the religious, morally rock solid, and accustomed from birth to dealing with foreign cultures. What more could you ask?
Vice President: Joe Biden. Want a greybeard in the Cabinet who knows every corner of the world? We might have to hire an editor for his speeches, but who else knows more and has thought more about foreign peoples, foreign affairs and how they might affect us? Who could provide better liaison with Congress on foreign policy?
Secretary of State: As a brilliant, widely respected leader with unfailing judgment, Obama would set policy. At State we’d need an equally brilliant but quiet negotiator to cut the best possible deals. Two come to mind:
- Richard Holbrooke. Remember him? Low key, with a first-rate mind, a superb negotiator, he’s James Baker III with scruples. And he knows the Middle East.
- Alternate: Christopher Hill, the guy who’s successfully dissuading “mad” Kim Jong Il from nuclear brinksmanship.
Attorney General: Diane Feinstein. Low key, with iron integrity and a mind like a steel trap. If you’ve ever watched her sweetly take apart a witness at a Senate hearing, you want her enforcing our laws and our civil rights. Maybe she’d bring back Carol Lam.
Secretary of Homeland Security: Richard Clarke. How about a security chief who actually had the brains and foresight to imagine 9/11 before it happened?
Secretary of Energy: Richard Lugar. One of the first Republicans to get serious about energy independence, he’s a low-key thinker who’s decades ahead of everyone else. A politician by trade, he approaches energy like a scientist. That’s exactly what we need.
Secretary of the Interior: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Our environmental problems are intimidating, so we need a personality to match. Who better to “terminate” pollution, global warming and spoliation of our wilderness than the man who’s already started doing so, ignoring party labels, in our most populous and productive state?
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Julie Gerberding. Brilliant scientist and brilliant politician, she can explain complex science even to members of the House. If you’re afraid of disease or bugs—whether bird flu, MRSA, or AIDS—you want her not just down in the trenches, but in charge.
Secretary of the Treasury: Bob Rubin. Let’s reward success for a change and bring him back. He won’t be all that happy at Citigroup anyway—a once-great bank brought low by hucksterism.
Secretary of Transportation: Michael Bloomberg. A financial and business wizard, he’s already started using market-based solutions to clear up Manhattan’s gridlock and pollution. We need him to go national.
Secretary of Commerce: Charlene Barshefsky. What better way to recognize that commerce is now global than to put Clinton’s successful USTR in this position?
Secretary of Labor: Dick Durbin. A first-rate politician, first-rate mind and first-rate lawyer, with a low-key, attractive personality, he’s a lifelong progressive. Who better to stand up for the working stiff at home and abroad?
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: John McCain. Would our tough, maverick, no-nonsense senator take the job? He might; he cares passionately about his fellow warriors. What better way to end his career than making sure our returning troops have the respect and care they deserve? McCain would not suffer their mistreatment in silence, and the Cabinet could use his independent judgment on other matters as well.
What makes this roster a Dream Team? Experience, accomplishment and brains. Colin Powell served 35 years in the military, plus four more as Secretary of State. Richard Clarke served our government for 30 years, eighteen of them in intelligence. Together Joe Biden, Diane Feinstein, Richard Lugar, Dick Durbin and John McCain have been in Congress for 127 years. Imagine what they could do for us if they were making decisions and solving problems, rather than raising money and bickering.
There are no amateurs or cronies here. Every one of these figures has independent political power, business stature, or both. Imagine how smoothly relations between Congress and the Executive would go with them on the job. We wouldn’t have to worry about independent judgment in the Cabinet or checks and balances within the all-powerful executive.
If you want a Dream Team like this one working for us, you should vote for Barack Obama to head the list and pick the rest. He’s the only candidate likely to assemble such a team. Rudy values only loyalty; he wanted his ex-chauffeur in charge of Homeland Security. Hillary will give us the same old tired, jaded and forgettable Clinton crew. Mitt hasn’t worked with these folks or known them personally; his appointments are likely to be cronies and certain to be pigs in a poke.
Obama knows all the Senators personally and is high in their regard. He has worked with most of the rest. He was Senator Lugar’s protege, and he has promised a bipartisan cabinet.
So Obama’s team will look more like this Dream Team than any other candidate’s. And recruiting is cumulative. While some of these luminaries might balk at serving in isolation, who could refuse to be part of a team like this?
Not even Obama can do it all alone. The team’s the thing. He’ll give us the best.
Don’t be Fooled by Name Dropping
The context is enough to turn your stomach. She named Powell not as a possible Secretary of Defense, but as a possible roving goodwill ambassador for her administration, working with her loyal husband Bill. And she dropped Powell’s name not for a general audience, but for a group of African-American ministers in South Carolina. Need I say more?
Appointing Colin Powell as a mere marketer of Hillary’s “expertise” on military and foreign affairs would be like a third-rate scientific hack appointing Albert Einstein as messenger boy. It would insult the intelligence not just of African-Americans, but of everyone else as well. That’s just the sort of hubris and lack of perspective that we’ve come to expect from Hillary.
It is Colin Powell, not Hillary, who spent 35 years in the military and was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State. It was he who planned and executed our stunning, nearly casualty-free victory in Gulf I. It was he, not Hillary, who advised Dubya not to invade Iraq and stuck his neck out by making his advice public before the invasion. It was he who tried to bring George Tenet to account for false intelligence by having Tenet sit behind his right shoulder, on camera, as he gave his speech at the United Nations. Hillary did nothing but vote for war, without even reading the crucial report.
It was Powell who backed up Generals Shinseki and Zinni in insisting on sending enough troops to do the job. If he had been Secretary of Defense, rather than That Idiot Rumsfeld, our enterprise in Iraq would have been about where it is now by early 2004, with little or no insurgency and far fewer casualties on all sides. In addition, Powell showed superb judgment on other issues, including the spy-plane crisis in China and the need to pressure Israel for peace.
So don’t be fooled by Hillary’s name dropping. Building a Dream Team person by person requires more than dropping names. In her name dropping Hillary offers us the same snake oil that Dubya has been offering for the last seven years. Don’t buy it.