Wednesday, July 8, 2020 9:32

Obama’s Cabinet

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Posted by ep on Saturday, November 29, 2008, 13:12
This news item was posted in Analysis, Politics category and has 8 Comments so far.

Obama has been assembling his cabinet more rapidly than nearly any of his predecessors (2). I’m sure some of this is helped along by the fact that his transition team started the vetting process of potential cabinet members before the end of the election. The number of nominations is even more impressive considering that Obama’s team has an extremely vigorous vetting process that includes an invasive FBI background check as well as prospective candidates having to complete a seven-page questionnaire that requires the disclosure of nearly every last private detail (2).

My feeling is the growing financial crisis is largely responsible for the urgency to the process and has placed a premium on known quantities. This premium on known quantities is a large factor leading to Obama’s current nominations being so heavy on Washington experience. Obama’s first four cabinet nominations have more Washington experience than either Clinton’s or George W Bush’s (60, 58, 30 respectively) (3). That is even with Janet Napolitano, his nomination for Secretary of Homeland Security, having no Washington experience.

Change was one of Obama’s primary platforms during the primary and general election his appointment of these seasoned Washington insiders begs the question, “Will the same people who have been running Washington be able to or be willing to change it?” It is a fair question. With these people working for new leadership I still think the answer is yes.

One of Obama’s attribute that I found incredibly appealing during the campaign was his pragmatism. A step away from the ideological zealotry that has come to characterize Washington in recent years and towards a mindset that could start to solve some of the problems currently facing the country. I believe that this pragmatism is what is driving the current cabinet nominations. Here are some of the proposed or projected nominations so far and my thoughts if I have any (an * denotes someone that I am pretty confident the position has at least been offered to)

*Secretary of State- Hillary Clinton
The biggest and most controversial appointment so far by Obama. Personally I’m not sure how she is qualified for this position (although, what should the qualifications for the position be?). I know she was in the White House as First Lady for eight years but saying that is the same as running the White House is like saying that Yoko Ono was one of The Beatles. Ultimately I think this was a political move to keep her close and help bring the Democratic party together even more. Additionally I would be shocked if her Senate confirmation is not only successful but also quick and painless. The biggest pitfall I see in this move is if things don’t work out between Obama and Clinton it will be politically tough for Obama to fire her without significant fallout.

*Secretary of the Treasury- Timothy Geithner
This pick along with all of the economic team has been lauded by both the right and left. Tim has been heavily involved in the process already in his role as the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York which should make the transition from Paulson to him smooth. Going with a known quantity that is respected on both sides of the isle should speed his confirmation.

*Secretary of Defense- Robert Gates
I believe this is a great pick for the position and is a realization of Obama’s commitment to try to have a bi-partisan administration. It is also example of an extremely pragmatic choice in that the Obama teams focus needs to be on the economy. Why transition the complexities of the war in Iraq to a new Secretary unless you have to? Additionally, you could skip the Senate confirmation process since he currently holds the position.

*Chief of Staff- Rahm Emanuel
Rahm is known as a bulldog and a fierce Democratic partisan, which is in stark contrast to Obama himself. I believe that is why Obama needed him, or someone like him with a leadership role in his administration. Somebody to play the hardass bad guy to Obama’s peace maker.

*Secretary of Health and Human Services- Tom Daschle
An 18 year veteran of the Senate and former Senate minority leader is well known by most of the sitting members of the Senate. Having been in the public eye as long as he has and serving in such prominent roles has already helped vet him. All of this adds up to a guy who knows all the players and should be easily confirmed.

*Press Secretary- Robert Gibb

*Secretary of Homeland Security- Janet Napolitano
A Washington outsider in that she has never held a position there, even though she has worked there for a time in her career. The only hiccup she might see during her confirmation is because she represented Anita Baker during the Clarence Thomas confirmation and some conservatives believe she may have coached the witness’s testimony (4). I think this is another great pick. A democratic governor from a red border state with extensive experience in border and port of entry issues. This nomination has drawn praise from both sides of the isle.

Secretary of Energy- Al Gore/ Jeff Bingaman

Ambassador to the UN- Bill Clinton/ Lee Hamilton

*National Security Adviser- James Jones
A former Marine general with extensive experience in Afghanistan. The perfect person to couple with Robert Gates.

*Attorney General- Eric Holder Jr.
Somebody who is well respected, was appointed to a judgeship by Regan and a leadership role at the Department of Justice by the Clinton administration. A personal friend of Obama who was by some accounts reluctant to leave his current job at a law firm to go back to the grind of Washington but was convinced he was needed. His only blip in confirmation might be his association with Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich (4)

*Secretary of Commerce- Bill Richardson
Bill will probably be the toughest confirmation of all of the cabinet members. He was Secretary of Energy under the Clinton administration when some nuclear secrets were stolen from Los Alamos, some Republicans haven’t forgotten nor forgiven him for that happening under his watch(4). That said, I think he will ultimately be confirmed and has the experience and political cache to be successful.

Overall I love how the cabinet is shaping up after doing additional research with the possible exception of Clinton who I am still on the fence over. All the nominations seem like easy confirmations, helping to avoid the risk in not getting people confirmed and the associated embarrassment. The quick confirmations will allow his team to hit the ground running and begin addressing the long list of issues currently facing the country.

(1) Cabinet Members:

(2)Obama Cabinet vetting historically fast:

(3) Obama’s Cabinet Picks Heavy on Washington Experience,2933,455545,00.html

(4) Past Controversies Hang Over Obama’s Cabinet Picks

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8 Responses to “Obama’s Cabinet”

  1. Hyperboles
    29 November, 2008, 15:31

    Though I’m hesitant to say that I’m a huge Hillary Clinton fan, I have to admit that I’m a little surprised at your dismissal of her potential qualifications for secretary of state. To say that she is the Yoko Ono of political figures seems to be generally wrong, given her long legal and political career. While I think it’s totally appropriate to talk about her skimpy international experience (though it’s more than Obama’s), I find it interesting that instead you went with a button pushing, pop culture-ish and inaccurate analogy.

  2. 2 December, 2008, 8:53

    I didn’t mean to say that Clinton was the Yoko Ono of politics, just that her claiming White House experience is similar to Yoko Ono being called one of The Beatles. I alluded to what criteria do you even use to judge if somebody is qualified for that position. Clinton certainly knows all the players, has plenty of cred and is smart and tough minded. Does her resume look as impressive as Madeline Albright’s before her appointment? I don’t think so.

    Even Rush Limbaugh has praised the Clinton appointment The article mentions the only people who seem to be disappointment with his appointments are the far left.

  3. LaterSkater
    2 December, 2008, 14:33

    Ohhh… you’re just trying to trick a bunch of conservatives into catching the gay by using a GayWired reference for your Rush Limbaugh citation. Tricky Tricky. I bet a few even clicked it.

  4. 3 December, 2008, 19:10

    Have been looking around your site, like the layout, love the content.

    Would you like to trade links with a bipartisan politics blog offering a uniquely youth perspective.


    Or just let me know at Quash100 [at]

  5. 10 December, 2008, 7:55

    For Clinton, its not that she’s unqualified in political experience but she may not be able to take the position because according to the Constitution, she can’t assume a cabinet position that she voted to give a salary increase to. I really liked Bill, but I think there were far better choices for Secretary of State unless Obama knows something specific that he’s not mentioning.

  6. jeff
    10 December, 2008, 18:39

    huh… i hadn’t heard of this in the Constituion before but here it is:

    Assuming the secretary of state’s office had a salary increase since she was elected as senator

  7. LaterSkater
    11 December, 2008, 8:15

    This has happened several times in the past as well. It has been worked around by the individual voluntarily taking a pay cut and refusing to accept the raise when they enter their new position. I doubt it will prevent her from taking office. It hasn’t in the past. I wish I could find the reference, but CNN had an article listing previous individuals that served by taking a pay cut to work around this issue.

  8. 8 April, 2020, 22:26


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