In the Arena

The Obama Cabinet

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I don’t have a dog in the Secretary of State hunt.* But I do have an idea about how to get both John Kerry and Susan Rice into the Cabinet.

First of all, Kerry should not be the next Secretary of Defense. He’s a policy guy, not a budget guy — and the Pentagon job, for the foreseeable future, is about budget cutting. My candidate to replace the indefatigable Leon Panetta — whenever he chooses to go — is current Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who knows the place backwards and forwards and can handle both the policy and budget aspects of the job.

I think Kerry would be a terrific Secretary of State. He’s been doing the job, more or less, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, doing really valuable diplomatic work for the Obama Administration, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I think Rice would be fine too. I love her toughness — and I have a soft spot for diplomats, like the late Richard Holbrooke, who aren’t always entirely diplomatic, but she could also replace Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security, a job that requires both toughness and diplomacy.

And what of Napolitano? She’s a former U.S. prosecutor — and was a spectacular governor of Arizona, during a brief period of electoral sanity in that jejune state — and I think she’d make a great Attorney General. Eric Holder hasn’t been. Major-league financial miscreants like Countrywide mortgage’s Angelo Mozilo still walk the streets freely. No one has paid a price for the utter corruption in the housing market and on Wall Street. The word is that Holder wants to stay on as Attorney General. He shouldn’t. Napolitano would be better.

Whoever replaces Timothy Geithner — and wouldn’t it be great if it weren’t a Wall Street toady, perhaps former FDIC regulator Sheila Bair — should be looking closely at the big banks, which still need to be broken up, and the less-than-kosher derivatives markets.

I’d like the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs to be a very public figure (unlike the reticent Eric Shinseki), someone who will make a lot of noise advocating for the splendid young men and women coming home from the wars. It should, ideally, be someone who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. I spend a lot of time talking to veterans, some quite accomplished, but no one seems to have a good idea about who should handle this job. I hereby solicit ideas for the job from members of the Swampland community who know something about the military, medicine and how to wrestle a bureaucracy to ground.

*I have a son who will report to the next Secretary, so I’m being diplomatic here — and announcing hereby a recusal from reporting internal State Department politics. I will continue, however, to travel the world, report and write about U.S. foreign policy, unless my son is directly involved.

86 comments
TheDisclosure
TheDisclosure

Let's just get Geithner out and start cracking on these corrupt bankers

tma_sierrahills
tma_sierrahills

"And what of Napolitano? She’s a former U.S. prosecutor — and was a spectacular governor of Arizona, during a brief period of electoral sanity in that jejune state — and I think she’d make a great."

A "jejune state." The loving Tolerance Police strikes again. You know, those who preach endlessly about how we should always judge people as individuals, and never ever as groups. In any case, yes, by all means, let's not forget Janet open-borders Incompetento. 

DavidLucier
DavidLucier

For Secretary of the VA...Dr. Richard Carmona...17th US Surgeon General, highly decorated US Army Special Forces (Green Berets) medic, combat wounded and disabled, educated on the GI Bill, trauma surgeon, law enforcement officer (voted Top Cop), serves on the DoD medical Policy Board, the most ardent veterans advocate I've ever met...and I've met a lot! He is unrelenting in his pursuit of excellence and unwavering in his ethics, both professional and personal.

kbolson
kbolson

Rice for Secretary of Homeland Security is an abysmal notion.  One, it requires administrative acumen; two, it is operationally a vast, unwieldy blend of intelligence collection, law enforcement, and physical security.  Can you tell me, please, how anything in Ambassador Rice's background even remotely qualifies her to do these jobs?

Mr. Klein's disturbing apparent lack of awareness of what is required for this job, characterizing it as an alternative diplomat-with-an-attitude position is consistent with so many other commentators who fail to really understand DHS.  Now, if you want a candidate for the job, by not a cop/executive/innovator who really understands the threat?  Bill Bratton should be drafted.

ErnestD.Houle
ErnestD.Houle

Being a veteran and knowing about Swift Boat and casting away his medals, makes me wonder why in hell is he a nominee for anything. 

BUFFIC
BUFFIC

For Secretary of Veteran's Affairs;  Dr. Cris Mandry of Baton Rouge and Metarie, LA.  Dr. Mandry, a graduate of LSU served two (maybe three tours) in Iraq and Afghastan as a trauma surgeon with the 20th SFG(A).  He is a Combat Medic and a LTC/Battalion Surgeon who is also a very successful medical services business man who is till a working as a trauma surgeon himself.  Outstanding Patriot and an individual who is very concerned about the type, quality and consistemcy of the mediacl care available to veterans.  The more someone looks at Dr. Mazndry the better qualified he becomes

dubya4517
dubya4517

The possible nomination of Rice is just a distraction and part of the strategy. After a few more weeks of this, her name won't be mentioned by the administration and Kerry will be offered up. After the opposition repeatedly says it will support Kerry, they'll be pummeled (as usual) for opposing him and he'll sail through... just as the administration planned all along. Rice will stay at the UN.

opiner
opiner

It's not a good idea to rtemove Kerry from office,leaving his seat to a race between Scott Brown and who-knows-who,a race that will receive mega funding from Repub interests and a likely lower voter turnout than the recent elections.We need every Dem Senate vote we have.

There are lots of other qualified candidates for Sec of State.Giving Kerry the Sec of Defense as consolation does not work.He doesn't belong there.

Carlcid
Carlcid

For Secretary of Veteran Affairs, why not retiring Senator Jim Webb of Virginia? He's a bemedalled veteran who served with honor in Vietnam and he's familiar with the corridors of power, having served in the Reagan cabinet and as a U.S. Senator from Virginia.

jcwil
jcwil

Why take any voting Democratic members of Congress to the Exec Branch?  There are qualified candidates with diplomatic, business and government service experience readily available outside the halls of Congress.  In this contentious era why risk the loss of even one vote in Congress?

BillPearlman
BillPearlman

What the Republican should do is pull what I would call an "Obama". Vote present on everything, not yea or nay. Let the genius have everything he wants. Whioever he wants. Then stand back and watch the show.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

The descriptions of Holder (no financial industry prosecutions) and Geithner (Wall St. toady) stand independently here, but I see a connection. I am conflicted over Obama's financial team, influenced by resentment and anger over their connection to the financial crisis, and I can't arrive at a conclusion.  I support Holder if for no other reason that the right wing hates him, and that alone is a recommendation in my book.  Sec. of State Huntsman is an intriguing idea along the same lines, working with the few sane Republicans that exist.

I don't know where the Shinseki criticism comes from; he wasn't reticent standing up to the idiot neocons, and has my respect for that if nothing else. I don't know that he has announced leaving, and if not, I know of no reason that Obama would replace him. 

SteinbeckAfrica
SteinbeckAfrica

State: Kerry or Huntsmann. Rice?? N.o. She's very netanyahuesque.... Aggressive for no reason...

AG: Spitzer!!

Secretary of basketball: MJ

Secretary of Golf: Tiger Woods.

LegalBagel
LegalBagel

I propose Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) for Veterans Affairs -- she may not want it, particularly given her committee position in the Senate.  She's a long-time advocate for veterans and knows how to get things done behind the scenes in DC.  She's not a public figure in the sense of being a national star but she is a leader in the Senate.  More importantly, she is probably the most reasonable politician I have ever met.  She's not a great person for the press conferences but she is adept at retail politics and understanding the art of the possible.  I'm a self-described conservative libertarian and I support Patty as a Senator mostly because of her veterans advocacy but also because she truly believes in making government work for people.  She'll continue to do a great job for veterans in the Senate but she could do even more directly in the VA.  Her staff is excellent as a result of her knack for putting the right people in the right places.  I think she's developed the skills to match her passion.  Patty Murray is my nomination for the VA.

jason024
jason024

It is clear that Ambassador Rice was given talking points by the CIA. It is also clear that any changes which were made in the talking points were not made by Ambassador Rice or the Whitehouse, but where made by the the office of the Director National Intelligence and the CIA and the FBI signed-off on any changes which were made. Why do the Republicans have such a difficult time comprehending the simple fact that Susan Rice, in her TV appearances used the talking point she was given as her reference. She could not use any other information, she necessarily was obligated to use the official information she was given. The Republican Senators are beginning to look quite absurd in this matter with their maniacal insistance that Ambassador Rice has, by God, done something evil and wrong and we are going to rant and harp on this until everyone thinks what we Republican Senators are saying is true. Their thinking seems to be that, 'We will repeat this and repeat this until everyone believes what we say about Ambassador Rice is true!'

DanielReinert
DanielReinert

Joe, here's an outside the box thought for the next Sec. of VA Affairs.  You asked for someone who is a much more "public figure" than Shinseki who will "make a lot of noise advocating for the splendid young men and women coming home from the wars".  There dosn't appear to be a much bigger personality to tackle this then Ronald Lee Ermey (the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket).  Though I have never met him, he strikes me as having a large and influential personality.  Being former military, I suspect he would be well respected by both bureaucrats and enlisted soldiers.  He may not be medically qualified for the position, but with the right medical professionals working with him, I would think he could be quiet effective.  **Bonus: He is a board member with the NRA and I'm assuming a Republican.  This would be good for both Republicans and Obama and the Dem's looking to play nice with one another.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

paulejb: "Obamabi Hussein might as well post Putin as his Czar of Communism, in his continued Kenyan march towards taking our wealth for the free stuff. He is Socialist Clause after all. Chicago politics thuggery!"

There, no need to comment now Paul. I've summed up everything you ever offer us.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Geithner out. Replace him with a feces throwing Monkey if need be. Any GOP at this time would do.

tkny
tkny

Veterans Affairs...am I crazy for thinking Howard Dean is the right man for this job?

grape_crush
grape_crush

> I do have an idea about how to get both John Kerry and Susan Rice into the Cabinet.

I guess I'm missing the reason why getting both of these people into the Cabinet is a requirement.

As for getting some new faces and fresh air into Treasury and Justice, it's an excellent idea for the reasons Joe has given.

Veterans Affairs? No idea. I fully expect some pundit fanboy to suggest David Petraeus, though.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

How about Kerry stays were he is JK; Republicans want him to be put onto Obama's Cabinet so that his seat will become available.

outsider
outsider

Things maybe aren’t looking so great for Susan Rice. The throw-down yesterday by Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who extended the Republican case against Rice back to the Clinton years, is one of those Washington smoke signals, and it’s not a positive one. Let me therefore set aside for a day the question of the merits of Rice and raise another one: Who would make for some credible, interesting, outside-the-box choices to run Foggy Bottom? There are ample non-Rice options that would provide the nation with a strong chief diplomat and would piss off the wingnuts in the bargain. Here are half a dozen.

1. Al Gore. I first heard this suggestion from my friend David Greenberg, the historian who writes for Slate, and I though, nahhh. But it grew on me pretty fast. Tell me why not. He’d be great. He’s known around the world. He’s respected around the world, about 90 percent of which surely wishes he’d been the president instead of the guy he beat. I’m not saying he’d change the world; no one can do that. But he’d get a hearing everywhere. He knows a huge number of world leaders, and he knows the issues cold. He could dive right into the pool’s deepest end, in the Middle East, on Iran, you name it.

What about his climate-change crusade, you wonder? Far from having to drop his signature issue, Gore could use his new position to push it with even greater vigor in a global context. Gore, and probably Gore alone, would be capable of elevating the climate change issue to the position it deserves on the national and global stage.

What we don’t know that much about is the Gore-Obama relationship. In 2007 and 2008, Gore clearly tilted toward Obama (Gore’s mere refusal to endorse Hillary Clinton over Obama indicated as much). Gore didn’t endorse Obama until right after he’d secured the nomination, but the two were said to have talked regularly. That’s good enough.

Finally: Man, would I love to see the Republicans try to swat down a Gore nomination. How? They’d poke around in his finances, remind America that he’s now divorced. But unless there were some kind of smoking gun on the former point, no one would care. They could not really block Gore; too much stature, too obviously qualified. Can you imagine? John McCain would grind his teeth, assuming those still are his teeth, down to dust. That would be awesome to watch.

2. Jon Huntsman. A Republican reviled by the wingnuts, Huntsman has already served the anti-Christ in a diplomatic capacity, as his ambassador to China. He seems to have done an acceptable job in that posting, so why not just continue and augment the relationship? He clearly likes Obama pretty well and obviously (between the lines) was cheering for his reelection over a man he clearly dislikes.

It’s hard to see Huntsman having confirmation problems. There would be a number of no votes and a lot of kvetching, but he couldn’t be blocked. He might even do a good job, too. And putting him at State would clear out of Hillary’s way in 2016 the GOP’s leading sane candidate.

DavidLucier
DavidLucier

@ErnestD.Houle and we all know the veracity of "Swift Boat"...nothing but a crock!

ErnestD.Houle
ErnestD.Houle

@opiner Scott Brown is by far a better choice than Kerry and his left wing anti veteran mind set.

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

@Carlcid Jpw did I miss Webb?? Assuming he wants the job, I think he should be seriously considered. 

ErnestD.Houle
ErnestD.Houle

@BillPearlman We've given him way too much rope already. Maybe a whale will swallow him and Biden on his Hawaii surfing vacation coming up.

ErnestD.Houle
ErnestD.Houle

@jason024 You obviously missed the important part of following command levels. She had no right stating any position on Bengazi for CIA. And, if she is such a stand up person, why has she changed her story several times? 

dubya4517
dubya4517

@jason024 As opposed to repeating that "she was just going by the talking points someone changed and is completely without fault" until "everyone believes what we say about Ambassador Rice is true!"?

And where, pray tell, was Obama in all this? Okaying the changes made to those talking points? Unable to get SecState Clinton to go out there and mislead the public so he called on Rice? Sound asleep throughout the crisis? Or wide awake and concerned this was going to be his "Carter Moment" so called off any potential rescue effort?

Hey, it's only 4 dead... no big deal.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@jason024 

They only started this silly crusade because of the election to try and smear Obama's administration. Now that they've lost they're continuing it out of pure spite - they could care less what actually happened in Benghazi or who said what.

Sean_C2
Sean_C2

@DanielReinert Ermey got into hot water a while for calling Obama a socialist, so that's unlikely.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@DonQuixotic 

It's sad just how insane and Freeinpa/Rodish he have become. But when you embrace rightie fringe stupid it seems inevitable. He's 100% troll agitation now - a big hairy ball of stupid.

outsider
outsider

@DonQuixotic 

You're just goading him to be even more ridiculous. 

And don't ask: he definitely can be worse. 

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@grape_crush 

The selling point for John Kerry seems to be that he has a lot of name recognition, at least that's the only one I've been able to gather.  Why exactly would be the such a good fit for Secretary of State?

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

On a side note, if Kerry was nominated for the position would the GOP oppose it as a knee-jerk reaction?  I think Obama could nominate John McCain and he would block himself at this point, frankly.

cent-fan
cent-fan

It sounds as though Huntsman would be a good pick if the "Asia first" policy (throw in South America), both geo-politically and geo-economically, is the order of the day.  Kerry seems to be more associated with efforts in the Middle East (which I personally wish would get covered in sand several miles thick) and Africa.  If our defense posture is shifting to the Pacific rim then I guess our State Department might as well go along.

NP042
NP042

@MrObvious @DonQuixotic They are pretty entertaining, though.  I almost wish Rusty/Freeper were still around.  Almost.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> Why exactly would be the such a good fit for Secretary of State?

He's qualified and has been basically doing a scaled-back version of the SecState position in the Senate. Example:  

"In this capacity, Senator Kerry has established himself as an expert on American foreign policy issues. He has traveled throughout the world, serving as the administration’s unofficial envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Two years ago, he conducted the difficult task of representing American interests in the war-torn nation of Sudan, and he is credited for painstaking work in ensuring that country did not erupt into civil violence."

My concern is that the fix is in against Rice and for Kerry. And I don't that the usual parlor game of guessing who will get what Fed job is getting distorted and manipulated to the extent that it is.

roknsteve
roknsteve

Don, that's the funniest thing I've read in weeks.  He could go on Fox and argue with himself and I'd even watch that.

outsider
outsider

@cent-fan 

Huntsman would be good - but i also like the idea of Gore for the reasons listed. 

ErnestD.Houle
ErnestD.Houle

@DavidLucier Expound on this statement. Tell us  your position and while your at it, do you endose his casting of medals?

DavidLucier
DavidLucier

@ErnestD.Houle @DavidLucier by any measure whatsoever...that whole Swift Boat debacle holds as much truth as a stringer holds water.

outsider
outsider

@NP042 @MrObvious @DonQuixotic 

I don't miss freeper. I don't miss rusty either, but rusty was stupid funny. 

Freeper was just mean. Well, so is rusty - but less angry i think. At least sometimes. 

Freepers anger makes paulie look like a saint. 

grape_crush
grape_crush

edit: "...don't like that the usual parlor game..."