Thursday, December 4, 2008

Building A Cabinet

In case you haven't been keeping up with current events, President-elect Barack Obama continues to fill his cabinet positions. I'd say the review by those in "the know" have been favorable.
For those fearing Obama would line his cabinet with liberals, that has not been the case. The appointment of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates should speak volumes to conservatives.
Gates, a Republican and the former Director of the CIA, was fine in his position as President of Texas A&M University. To many Aggies, he is the best president in the school's history. While there, he declined the nomination to serve as the first Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security when it was created following the September 11, 2001 attacks. He also declined the position as Director of National Intelligence in 2005.
However, following the exit of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2006, Gates accepted the appointment to lead the defense department.
I think what has happened in Iraq since Gates took over speaks for itself. Simply put, we've gone from losing the war to nearing it's completion. To those that know him, Gates is considered a soft-spoken genius.
Time Magazine named Gates one of the year's most influential people in 2007 and he was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report in 2008.
Without a doubt, Obama was very wise to let Gates continue in his position and will probably leave him there as long as he will stay. He will be one of the few men to serve a president from each party in this position.
When all of the dust settles on this piece of history, Gates will go down as one of the very best Secretaries of Defense we've ever had.
Back to Obama's Cabinet: Other members, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Bill Richardson as Secretary of Commerce, are viewed as centrist.
So far, Obama seems to be siding with experience in his picks.
The authority to appoint Cabinet members is grounded in Article II of the Constitution which stipulates that the President "may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments."
The first Cabinet, appointed by President George Washington, had just four members, but take a look at the four: Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson; Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton; Secretary of War, Henry Knox; and Attorney General, Edmund Randolph.
If you're not a history buff, you'll have to trust me that those four individuals would make any president a hand.
Over time, the Cabinet expanded to its current membership of 15 officials plus the Vice President. Additionally, each President may give "Cabinet level rank" to other members of the administration. All appointees are submitted to the Senate for consideration where they must receive a simple majority vote for confirmation.
The list of President-Elect Obama's Cabinet members, those either announced or under serious consideration based on recent reporting, is as follows:
Secretary of Treasury - Timothy Geithner
Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton
Secretary of Defense - Robert Gates
Attorney General - Eric Holder
Secretary of Homeland Security - Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Health & Human Services - Tom Daschle
Secretary of Commerce - Bill Richardson
Ambassador to the United Nations - Susan Rice
Secretary of Agriculture - ?
Secretary of Education - ?
Secretary of Energy - ?
Secretary of Housing & Urban Development - ?
Secretary of Interior - ?
Secretary of Labor - ?
Secretary of Transportation - ?
Secretary of Veteran's Affairs - ?
With the exception of Eric Holder and Tom Daschle, I'd say Obama would get high grades from most with his appointments. Holder and Daschle are another matter entirely.
It will be interesting to follow the remaining appointments. Conservatives are saying the rest will be liberal. The liberals are a little ticked claiming the ones already appointed are no where near liberal enough. My bet is that he will continue to side with experience and pick mostly good ones with a couple of duds.

Copyright Christopher Blackburn 2008

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