Friday, November 7, 2008

Cabinet scuttlebutt

Here are a few more articles on potential cabinet members: CBS discusses most open posts, specifically on foreign policy
we have this article from the Hindustan Times, and Reuters reports that former Clinton Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin has ruled out a return to the post.

I'm going to mention a few of my preferences here, though I won't guess on many, because a lot of this is behind-the-scenes chatter and hard to predict:

(1) Treasury - NOT Rubin or Larry Summers - this whole financial crisis run-up started under the Clinton administration, so returning to the people who were wrong is a bad idea. Also, Summers has a big mouth and a large ego, and got into trouble at both the World Bank and Harvard for them. Paul Voelcker, former Fed chairman, is a possibility, but he is too much of an anti-inflation-hawk for my tastes and bears the stigma of the 1980s debt crisis. He's also getting old. Tim Geithner, current chair of the NY Fed, is a solid possibility because he was involved in crafting the bailout and can hit the ground running. Warren Buffet is seen as an outside shot - I might like that idea because Buffet is big on business fundamentals and stability, and agaisnt the over-financialization of our economy that has happened in the past few years. He's not a banker, which some take as a minus, but I see as a solid plus - the Wall Street-Treasury complex needs to take some time off.

(2) State - Bill Richardson is my pick, and almost a prediction. I think he's been angling for the role since the primaries. Plus, with a resurgent Latin America starting to have a voice in international affairs, a Hispanic secretary of state can go a long ways in casting a friendlier face. Richardson campaigned hard amongst latinos and broke with the Clintons to endorse Obama, so Obama also owes him a favor. He's also an old hand as Ambassador to the UN and has negotiated with Kim Jong-Il. It is worth noting that whoever is in charge of State will probably butt heads with Joe Biden.

(3) Defense - Personal choices are to stay with Robert Gates or to bring Colin Powell back into the fold. Gates is one of the best/most moderate people in the Bush administration and has openly stated that Defense needs to yield to state; that the US needs to focus less on hard power and overextending resources and more on soft power as other countries become global players. Plus, he can hit the ground running. Colin Powell is one of the most respected people in the US, including internationally, and his credentials are peerless: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State under both Democrat and Republican administrations. He also underastands that military intervention is a last resort, and is not afraid to speak his mind - but does so in a calm, balanced, quiet, and respectful manner. Whoever is in DoD needs to be able to bridge the aisle and bring consensus on an orderly withdrawal from Iraq.

(4) Energy - I like the gubernator for this one - Arnold Schwarzenegger is another moderate Republican, who has done a lot as governor of California. He's promoted alternative energy, and has also been a proponant of improving US rail infrastructure. One project approved on election day was the first leg of funding for a bullet train in CA connecting Sacramento to LA. High Speed rail should be our #1 priority for infrastructure - it provides jobs, reduces oil consumption, reduces carbon footprint, and can streamline air travel so that we don't need to fly within a 800-1000 mile radius. Another potential place for Arnold, following this, is Dept of Transportation. See this link for the rail project.

(5) Council of Economic Advisors - A few people who should be included and listened to: (a) Amartya Sen (Nobel Prize 1998 on Famines, at Harvard, also on the IMF Governance Reform panel), (b) Joeseph Stiglitz (Nobel Prize twice, at Columbia, known for alternatives to globalization, and understands Latin American cooperative movements), (c) Dani Rodrik (arguable the best development economist for understanding how institutions impact the economy, also at Harvard) - along the lines of Rodrik, other possibilities include Nancy Birdsall at the Carnegie Endowment or Arvind Subramanian at the Peterson Institute, (d) Paul Krugman (Nobel Prize for work on trade this year, might be a bit vitriolic at times, but also understands the need for careful governance of globalization), (e) Maybe Jeffery Sachs at Columbia or William Easterly at NYU - both are known and respected internationally, but they also hate each other, so they might be better as people to consult on a part-time basis.

One last comment is this - to bring real change, Obama needs to start listening closely to the alter-globalization movement, best represented by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG). Some of those organizations are listed on my sidebar.


Anonymous said...

I definately agree with you on Ricardson for State. He is the most qualified being mentioned for the position right now. There is alot of talk about Kerry, but I think Bill would be the better pick. Plus, I am not a fan of striping Congress of all its top Democrats, especially since it just lost Biden and Obama.