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.
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