Obama's Cabinet: Team of Writers

Some imagine that Barack Obama is creating a cabinet in the image of Abe Lincoln's, a Team of Rivals, to borrow Doris Kearns Goodwin's phrase.

Obama has suggested it's more like a team of hoopsters, "the best basketball-playing Cabinet in American history," including Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan, who was co-captain of Harvard's basketball team and played pro ball in Australia, and National Security Adviser-designate James L. Jones, who was a forward at Georgetown.

But Obama is also building a team of writers. He's been on the bestseller lists for months and months himself, for The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father.

Of course Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton has done well with her books, particularly her autobiography Living History (reviewed by Book World on 6/15/2003) and It Takes A Village, now in a 10th anniversary edition, though she seems to have had some help from professional writers in crafting them.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is also the author of a memoir, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, which originally came out in 1996 and was reissued in paperback last year. It's the story of Gates' long career in the CIA and contends, most intriguingly, that 1983 was the most dangerous year in U.S.-Soviet relations, even more perilous than the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

And there are some recently published authors in the new administration. Former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, tapped to be secretary of health and human services, came out just last year with Critical: What We Can Do about the Health-Care Crisis. In light of recent events, he might want to rethink (or at least rephrase) his proposal for a Federal Health Board that -- get this -- "would oversee the health-care industry in the same way that the SEC oversees securities exchanges, brokers and dealers."

Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and Obama's pick for secretary of commerce, also published a book last year: Leading by Example: How We Can Inspire an Energy and Security Revolution. It claims that New Mexico "has done more faster than any state ever to address clean energy, energy efficiency and climate change." Hmmm. Those could be fighting words in California.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture-designate, demonstrates a similar degree of state pride. He wrote the foreword last year to a book about the battleship USS Iowa, which took part in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944.

Paul A. Volcker, chairman of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, is also a foreword-thinking kind of guy. He wrote the foreword to Peter L. Bernstein's A Primer on Money, Banking, and Gold, which came out this fall.

Another of Obama's economic advisers, Lawrence H. Summers, has written more academic tomes, such as Tax Policy and the Economy and Understanding Unemployment. They may be the most intellectually rigorous books by any member of Obama's team, and probably the least read, too.

Note to readers: Book World does not publish during the week of Christmas. Short Stack will resume on Dec. 29.

--Alan Cooperman

By Alan Cooperman |  December 19, 2008; 7:01 AM ET Alan Cooperman
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