Obama's Early Test: Stocking the Cabinet

Okay. Enough euphoria. The first true test of President-elect Obama’s willingness to reach across the aisle -- and of whether he’s going to keep his promises to do that -- will come long before he’s sworn in. We'll know when we see how many Republicans he includes in his cabinet.

The bar, it should be noted, is not all that high. Usually just having one member of the other party in the 14 statutory cabinet positions or the handful of cabinet rank slots -- such as trade representative or head of the Environmental Protection Agency -- has been the norm.

President Kennedy had a bona fide Republican, Douglas Dillon as his Treasury secretary and independent Robert McNamara as Pentagon chief. (And he only had 10 cabinet positions to fill then.) But most presidents have gotten by with one token representative from the other party.

For example, President Nixon had conservative Democrat John Connolly in his administration and union official Peter Brennan. President Johnson had liberal Republican John Gardner. President Reagan had neo-con Democrat Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the United Nations. President George H.W. Bush had Reagan holdover Lauro Cavasos. President Clinton had liberal GOPer William Cohen, and President Bush had Norman Y. Mineta at Transportation.

Obama insiders say he’s serious about this bipartisan thing and about bringing in people from the high tech world or some other business sector. If so, then he’s going to have to do better than his predecessors, probably putting at least three non-Ds in the cabinet ranks or it will look much like same-old, same-old.

One likely suspect, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) took himself out of the running a while ago -- though he keeps getting mentioned for Secretary of State. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) or current Defense Secretary Robert Gates are obvious picks for the Pentagon. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is mentioned for Energy czar.

There are numerous, relatively bipartisan places to put Republicans, such as at Transportation or Commerce. But the Democratic frenzy for these few posts is already at fever pitch. Obama will be under intense pressure to find places for minorities as well, especially Latinos. (Think 46 electoral votes in battleground states Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.)

And we’ll see how he fulfills his pledges by next month.

By Paul Volpe  |  November 6, 2008; 2:34 PM ET  | Category:  Cabinet
Next: In a New Administration, Some Brand-New Jobs?


I am certain Obama will appoint anyone Chairwoman Pelosi will allow him to appoint.

Posted by: johnlloydscharf | November 6, 2008 4:52 PM | Report abuse

I am for bipartisanship but please leave Ahhhnold out in California.

Posted by: silverspring25 | November 7, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

johnlloydscharf - bitter, are we?

Seriously, why would you think Nancy Pelosi is running Barack Obama? It will certainly be the other way around - he's got a heckuva lot larger mandate than she does.

Posted by: vraymond | November 7, 2008 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Robert Kennedy Jr. would be ideal for the Energy Dept. - I agree that Swartzenegger should continue out in California. Paul Volker would bring sanity to the Treasury department. Please, just make sure the picks have the highest qualifications. This is no time to thank anyone for past or future favors!!! We, as American citizens do need to be our own lobbyists.
Write letters to your senators and representatives - DON'T HESITATE!
I trust that President-elect Barack Obama will be the best president in many decades. The internet has given us incredible access to what is going on in Washington - we must use it to our benefit and don't forget to look at all sides of issues and VERIFY, VERIFY the information that you research.
A NEW DAY HAS DAWNED!! Let's not waste this opportunity.

Posted by: Frantique1 | November 7, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I trust that President Elect Obama will be fair and reasonable in appointing his cabinet. Therefore, I expect he will appoint at least three or maybe four republicans to cabinet level positions. Assuming Secretary Gates will agree to remain at the DOD, that would be good. Senator Lugar would be an excellent choice for the State Department, but I suspect that job will be reserved for a party loyalist. I will not venture to name others, however there are several that are worthy of consideration.

Sincerely, h2o66

Posted by: h2o66 | November 7, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

We can hope that our new president-elect will appoint only the most competent people which should have nothing to do with party loyalty. That said, what about McCain or Bush's former sec'y of state for defense? Bill Clinton for sec'y of state? Etc. The key point is having people who are unafraid to speak truth and stand up to
him and are able to carry on independently of him, yet giving him deference. What about working toward the further integration of Canada and Mexico with the U.S.? A Canadian or Mexican as a sec'y of commerce?

Posted by: dacafi | November 7, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Oh Please!! I don't trust a Republican as head of the EPA. Let's Not make THAT Mistake again!! We need someone who will uphold the EPA laws, Enforce and Protect the health and safety of the American People, instead of big business interests.

Posted by: HopeForAmerica | November 7, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Well, although I said that a Republican in the EPA would be a mistake, I would like to say that the one and only Republican I've been very impressed with is, Governor S. of California. He has proven to be progessive; working towards a mutual and beneficial energy future culiminating in green jobs, clean energy, and the reducution in global warming and dependence on fossil fuels.

Posted by: HopeForAmerica | November 7, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

There is a matter of oweing Hillary a large debt for coming over to his backbone. He owes her Sectry of State! She is duly qualified and well liked in the many nations we now need to return to being a lead nation again.

Posted by: olerb1 | November 7, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Whoever gets picked for the cabinet he or she will first be picked by AIPAC. Hillary is a good pick and has already been vetted by AIPAC where she pledged her undying support for Israel.
Rubin and Reich may or may not have been vetted by AIPAC but they're certainly fortunate enough to be of the same tribe. With Emanuel and Israel-firster Biden, whispering in Obama's ear, I'm sure that Israel will continue to be well represented in the highest circles of Washington. Obama knows in what direction to kneel.

Posted by: Doubtom | November 7, 2008 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Obama picking Republican's for offices in his administration, he could do worse then Arnold as Energy Czar, and for goodness sake, what is wrong with Condalezza Rice retaining her current office and FIND something equally befitting Colin Powell both of whom have shown that their love for this country is uppermost with them at all times.

Posted by: dierdre1 | November 7, 2008 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I think I'd like Sen. Lugar at State, given Pres.-Elect Obama's ability to work with him in the Senate.

Other Republicans that could be candidates would be Chris Shays and Lincoln Chafee. I also think Bill Richardson or another Latino needs to be selected, although I'm not sure he'd be interested.

Posted by: bulldog6 | November 9, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

This is just more of the same McCain-Bush rubbish of the last eight yea--- What? Hmm? Oh... WE WON!!! Snap.

Posted by: hiberniantears | November 10, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Did I miss something? Did any of these people campaign for Barack Obama?He's supposed to include them but Hagel sat on his backside, never lifting a finger in Nebraska. I thought I just heard Arnold making stupid derogatory personal remarks....did Hagel ever endorse him? Would it have killed him? It took him 20 years to figure out the Viet Nam war was wrong. I think Obama should choose some people with guts. Joe Biden, Rahm, good so far.

Posted by: katalina911 | November 10, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

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