Friday, June 18, 2004

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My very own cabinet reshuffle

Brad DeLong has been urging "grown-up Republicans" for the past year to force Bush and Cheney's resignations. In latest post on this theme, DeLong expresses his half-serious wish that "the presidential succession passes to Colin Powell."

Now, besides the fact that Brad's theories of political science rest on shaky ground, and besides the fact that the only time I can think of either party forcing a sitting president not to run again was Johnson in 1968 (and even then it wasn't "grown-up Democrats" doing the pushing), I'm a bit puzzled by DeLong's embrace of Colin Powell. Maybe Powell is a moderate Republican, but that doesn't seem to have made him a particularly good Secretary of State. As the New York Times and Washington Post pointed out last year in their autopsies of the diplomatic run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as I highlighted in this post, the Secretary of State did not exert a lot of diplomatic effort. This is from the Times account:

Throughout the last several months, one of the puzzles at the State Department and throughout the administration is why Mr. Powell, one of the best-known and best-liked Americans in many parts of the world, never engaged in a campaign of public appearances abroad as energetic as the telephone and broadcast interview campaign he pressed from his office, home and car.

'His travels abroad are too few and far between,' said an official, noting that the only trips Mr. Powell made to Europe since the beginning of last year were to accompany the president or to attend short-lived conferences....

Mr. Powell is known to dislike travel. 'I think I have a right balance between phone diplomacy, diplomacy here in Washington, and diplomacy on the road,' he said recently when questioned about his schedule. (emphasis added)

A secretary of State who dislikes travel -- my kind of diplomat.

However, Brad's post did get me to thinking about Bush's foreign policy team and my own qualms with their performance. Tenet and Negroponte have recently left their positions. Rumsfeld should resign. Powell is lackluster. Fairly or unfairly, Ashcroft as Attorney General has been an automatic campaign contribution machine for Democrats. Foreign policy professionals are thoroughly disenchanted with the current team.

Since Bush and Cheney themselves aren't going anywhere, I've got an idea -- how about a cabinet overhaul now instead of November!!

Of course, this presents an exciting but challenging task -- picking a new foreign affairs cabinet that meets the following criteria:

1) They have solid Republican bona-fides;
2) They're effective administrators (for cabinet officials);
3) They have gravitas;
4) They can play nicely with each other;
5) Those needing Senate confirmation could get it with a minimum of fuss

With those criteria in mind -- and do bear in mind that this is a blog post, so it's not like I've thought every detail of this out -- what's my new cabinet look like?

Secretary of Defense -- John McCain. It's worth remembering that back in 2000, John McCain was the preferred candidate for a lot of prominent neocons. Here's a way to snuff out all that Kerry-McCain mumbo-jumbo and make McCain's star quality work for the Republicans. Plus, he knows a thing or two about defense matters.

Attorney General -- John Danforth. This position is a lightning rod for social conservatives -- but no one could doubt Danforth's adherence to conservative values or his sense of duty. Danforth commands respect on both sides of the aisle for his Senatorial record as well as his recent efforts to end the civil war in Sudan. This pick would please conservatives and not piss off moderates at the same time -- not an easy task.

Director of Central Intelligence -- Brent Scowcroft. Let's face it, the intelligence community is a mess right now -- what's needed is a technocrat's technoract, someone who can clean house while commanding the respect of intelligence professionals. Scowcroft has experience in just about every policy position in Washington, and currently chairs the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. [Why would he leave a lucrative consulting group to go to take a position lower than NSC advisor?--ed. Er, a sense of duty.]

Secretary of State -- Kenneth Dam. Dam was Deputy Secretary of State under George Shultz and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under Paul O'Neill. To my knowledge, no one in DC has ever said a bad word about him. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he's got sufficient experience for the job.

National Security Advisor -- Bob Blackwill. By all accounts, Blackwill is the Republican version of Richard Holbrooke -- an arrogant SOB who gets the job done. The NSC advisor needs to be someone who can be an honest broker in the policy process, unafraid of large egos, and able to be candid with the president. Blackwill's perfect for the job -- besides, as Lawrence Kaplan points out, Blackwill seems to be evolving into a shadow NSC advisor anyway.

Treasury Secretary -- Robert Zoellick. In the spirit of keeping one current Bush appointee, promote this guy and finally have a Treasury chief that understands there's an international component of the job.

Secretary of Homeland Security -- Rudoplh Guliani. If you think the intelligence community has problems, consider this monstrosity of a department for a second. This job is much tougher than DCI -- at least the CIA has some sense of esprit de cotps. DHS is a conglomeration of smaller agencies that have been discarded by other departments. What's needed here is a centralizer, someone who can meld an awkward organizational chart into something resembling a functional bureaucracy. I think Guliani fits that mold.

United Nations Ambassador -- Robert Kagan. This is always an awkward slot, because it usually goes to someone who lost out in the Secretary of State/NSC Advisor Sweepstakes. Plus, the UN ambassador needs to be someone who can play nicely with other countries, but still accepts the original neoconservative principle that the U.N. is a bastion of anti-Americanism and general silliness. Alas, Daniel Patrick Moynihan is neither Republican nor alive. But Kagan comes the closest to embodying those principles.

Seems like a nice mix of responsible realists and responsible neoconservatives to me. Someone get me David Broder's private line to float this trial balloon!

Readers are hereby encouraged to submit alternative candidates -- provided they meet the criteria listed above.

posted by Dan on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM


Why not Rudy Giuliani for Attorney General? Assuming he'd take it, it would keep him in the public spot light to perhaps run for president in 2008. He doesn't fit in with the "lighting rod for social conservatives" aspect of the Attorney's Gereral office, but how could any conservative say no to "America's Mayor"?

posted by: Aaron on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Aaron: I knew I'd forgotten something! I had Guliani in mind for another post see my amended post above.

posted by: Dan Drezner on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

You left out Scott Rolen. No all-star team is complete without him.

posted by: Steve in Houston on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

If you rank cabinet and high-ranking officials by the neccessity to fire them, I think its clear Powell is last on the list.

Here would be my order:
Rummy, Cheney, Wolfie, Feith, Tenet [fired],Aschroft, Condi, Powell.

This isn't exactly right, cause ideally you'd fire Rummy-Cheney-Wolfie-Feith axis all at once. But you do what you can. Now it makes sense that Powell should be the only one to stay on.

posted by: Jor on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

McCain would be a great change, but it is not going to happen. For one, I think it would shift the balance of the Senate, as Arizona has a Democrat as governor. And if the Senate shifts then the game is up for the GOP as the investigative powers of that branch would be released. I also get the feeling that he lacks the "loyalty" that Bush prizes so much.

Also, why assume that Cheney is locked in place. Can you imagine how he is going to look next to Edwards in the VP debate. He will come off even more evil than he does when locked in his secret bunker.

But lots of credit for raising this idea. You can continue to dream that Bush is capable of leading a competent Cabinet, but lets face it, the rot starts at the core in this adminstration.

posted by: Rich on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Problem with McCain: He is in a state with a Democrat governor. Accordingly, the GOP would lose a Senate seat if he resigned to take the DoD job. Now, perhaps that's not important, depending on what happens in November. But it will likely have an impact. I do think, though, that Bush and McCain are trying to make up, so it is a possibility.

Problem with Danforth: Just nominated to the UN Ambassador position, so not available for a little while.

Problem with Scrowcroft: I don't think that the current Bush crowd likes him very much, given what he said about Iraq. Especially important with regard to the CIA position, since so much of the justification for Iraq came from the CIA. Bush's people will definitely not want an Iraq critic in the position to undermine them with anti-war information obtained from the CIA.

Problem with Giuliani: He's finally making a lot of money, after years of government service. Why would he want to leave that to take the DHS position? Besides, he's probably going to want to run for Senate again (or, perhaps, Governor), so why not just make money until that campaign begins?

One other point: you didn't say that you don't like Condi Rice. Do you? I suppose not. But if you don't mind her, why not have her as Secretary of State?

posted by: Al on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

I think it's essential to keep McCain in the fold, but Al's right about the Senate seat. But I think Bush should go after all the already-rich candidates. Like Rumsfeld, if they're old, rich, and have no aspirations for higher office, than they don't really need the job, and have no body to impress of kowtow to. We need more people in cabinet positions that are willing to piss off the press and the establishment. Fire Rumsfeld? No way. Clone him!

posted by: Matthew on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Gosh, all those people to be fired.

It's almost as if you fired the top guy, the
rest would inevitably have to resign. :-}

Please ... let President Bush be President Bush.
You all seem to think that he is some sort of
"amiable dunce". (Where have we heard that

Remember, the President makes the decisions.
All those other fellows - and gal - do is carry them out. So when you say 'fire this guy' or
'fire that guy' you are in essence arguing that
you should fire the President.

Bad Idea.

posted by: pragmatist on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Giuliani needs to be held free to replace Cheney at VP. DHS is irrelevant, anyway - Ridge can be left there. I like Danforth for AG and Dam for State. Kick Powell to Defense as Acting until November(he's retiring, anyway, right?), when McCain may be free (depending on the outcome of the Senate races) - why the ex-military guy who hates travel was picked for State in the first place is beyond me. NSA is irrelevant - Condi is just as good there as anyone. Snow can stay at Treasury at least until January - I agree Zoellick would be good there, but politically there isn't yet a reason to dump Snow.

The problem with Scowcroft at CIA is that he is 79. That job needs a younger man. I don't know who, but preferably someone who is at most 55-60. There is no way Scowcroft will be perceived by the career guys as anything other than a placeholder. UN - does it really matter? We send Sec State over there anytime something important happens anyway.

The reason not to wholesale clean house now is that these guys have to be confirmed - the Senate isn't going to confirm a bunch of big posts in a hurry, the Dems would want to keep the "Bush picks lousy people - see, even he agrees" meme active.

posted by: rvman on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Ryman is right about why this would never happen. But it is not just the Dems fault. Bush is apparently incapable of admitting an error. He couldn't think of one bloddy mistake during that Press Conference. He could have even said something about chewing pretzels better, but could not admit that was a mistake. Heck, in his world Rumsfeld is still the best ever, and the nation is missing a leader in Tenet.

But it would be great to actually be able to compare the entire teams of people who would be running the nation. There are some obvious barriers to this, like it would eliminate the chance of people from other parties serving in Cabinets. But I think I would like to know who would be Secretary of State and Defense.

Bush still seems to pride himself on having a great team, well that did not work out so well this time, so why should we think it would be any better next time. Give me some proof and then maybe I would buy it. Although honestly, at this point I think you have to hold the head of this monster accountable for all the errors they committed in the last three years.

posted by: Rich on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

the Dems would want to keep the "Bush picks lousy people - see, even he agrees" meme active.

Well, it's true, isn't it? At least according to our host.

posted by: Bernard Yomtov on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Why is firing Bush such a bad idea, again? Admittedly, not a pragmatic one...

posted by: Mike on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

By and large I think your proposals are idiotic. Why aren't you replacing Mineta, who's clearly the worst member of the Cabinet? Rummy and Ashcroft are the two reasons the US has not been successfully attacked since 9/11- why on earth would you replace them? As for putting another bureaucrat in at CIA - that's exactly what we don't need now. What we need now is another Bill Donovan or Bill Casey - a take-no-prisoners, get-it-done guy, not a cover-my-ass, write-another-report bureaucrat. As for Powell - well, almost anybody would be better, but I'd nominate Rudy Guiliani, who isn't afraid to call a spade a spade.

posted by: DBL on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Porter Goss for CIA.

posted by: KathyK on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Guiliani for AG, although Homeland Security is a good idea too.

Bill Frist for VP.

James Baker for State.

posted by: J Mann on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

It will never happen, but Dick Cheney needs to resign. He has made a number of erroneous comments, and his ties to Halliburton packaged with GWBs ties to the oil industry are an anchor hanging around the neck of this administration.

I appreciate his effort and the country owes him a debt, yada yada yada, but if Bush picks McCain as his vice president, he wins this election in a landslide. And McCain is primed to stomp on Hilary in 2008.

And although I appreciate his candor in the face of an avalanche of tough times compounded with enormous mistakes, but Donald Rumsfeld needs to go as well. He has the dimplomacy of a rock, and the next four years the war on terror could benefit from someone who can work with others diplomatically.

But what do I know, I thought Saddam murdering 3-400,000 people was a valid reason to remove his regieme from power.

posted by: Cog on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Clearly, Daniel Drezner wants the terrorists to win.

posted by: Cardinal on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

VP - Baker
DOD - John McCain
State - Powell - Lugar
NSA - Blackwill
CIA - Crowe

posted by: Bahadir Koc on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

I would factor in Victor Davis Hanson in there somewhere. I like someone who isn't afraid to call a spade a spade and actually understand history and its application to today's situations.

posted by: Chrees on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

So, hypothetically speaking, if Bush changed his team and things actually improved as a result of that - should that make us all forgive and forget his lies and distortions?

Is truth not a conservative value anymore?

I guess one could take the line that there are things more important than kicking a liar out of the White House. Except I'm not sure I can.

Atrios linked to an article by Brian Dickerson in the Detroit Free Press today (putting a rather mystifying spin on it which I am not inclined to share):

So a reasonable person has to wonder: Why aren't responsible leaders in both parties -- those who care about their country and its credibility in the world -- calling for George Bush's resignation?

Indeed, why not?

Maybe we don't have any responsible leaders anymore - in either party? Hey, Clinton lied, too. Pretty much all politicians are used to spinning stories in ways that amount at least to distortions, if not lies.

Bush has lied again and again, so perhaps it's just not worth pointing out or worrying about anymore? Again, Clinton lied, too. Bush sr. kind of lied about not raising taxes. Reagan almost certainly lied, too, and about more serious stuff, and yet he is revered especially by conservatives in a god-like fashion. Just standing next to his casket seems to have boosted Bush's job approval ratings a bit.

Maybe lying is just what Presidents do and what the American people have come to expect from them?

Sorry for the cynicism, but I'm not even sure it's cynicism anymore...

Oh, and do read the Financial Times editorial Bush has misled Americans on Iraq that Brad DeLong links to. So those liberal media communists at the FT in London are also siding with the terrorists now...

posted by: gw on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Kissinger -- everywhere.

posted by: Anonymous on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Get rid of State Department (pluses are Powell's wife will be very happy :-)) ... DOD can take care of "diplomacy".

UN Ambassador? Let's just give over their HQ to Donald Trump for his apprentices to turn into a nice luxury condo apartment -- will increase tax base for NYC. What to do with Kofi? Firing squad would be nice.

Scowcroft? Yeah right. Let's hand him over to the Ukrainians.

Ashcroft -- give him some boxing gloves and send him to Saudi Arabia to start beating those bastards up.


posted by: bdb on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

De Long was part of an administration that should have resigned. The rest of this is just insane.

posted by: Brian on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Why not throw in one or two democrats? I realize this contravenes criterium #1 but 1) this country needs the best qualified people to lead and 2) it may help create goodwill and a mood of national unity - something much needed at this point. Of course the pool of available candidates is quite small since there aren't many democrats who haven't forcefully criticized the war effort at some point or another.

posted by: John M on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

You know, I think Guiliani did a great job in the wake of 9/11, but please, please no cabinet post for him. I would be perfectly happy if he was Senator, but not a cabinet security or AG post. The man is a control freak par-extraordinaire and has a rather heavy handed, occasionally fascistic streak. Remember, he was a pretty heavy handed US attorney as well, bringing charges against Michael Milliken.

posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Two points:

First, this "grown up" trope is really boring. Are Glenn Reynolds, Gene Volokh and the rest of the Bush administration supporters somehow less mature than Brad DeLong, of all people? And, let me add, I myself am older, richer and smarter than either Mr. Drezner or Mr. DeLong, and I think Bush is doing a pretty good job.

Second, what is this about Giuliani? I guess none of the discussion participants except Mr. Juzlak lives in New York, because you all seem to have forgotten how much the Dems hated Giuliani when he was mayor, how there were demonstrations at City Hall almost every day, how he was perpetually accused of being arrogant, aloof, racially insensitive, a fascist, how he never fired any of his staff because of his pathological loyalty, etc. In fact, when it comes to personality and style, he's a lot like Bush, except sort of unzipped in his personal life. So you might as well keep what you have.

posted by: wsm on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

The Dems in New York City though tend to be highly leftist Dems. After all Bloomberg would be a liberal Democrat in many other states and NYC Dems still oppose him.

A better reason why a centrist, such as yours truly, would oppose Guiliani in a national position is that he really does have a fascistic, arrogant streak

posted by: Jon Juzlak on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

A President did once attempt a wholesale change in his Cabinet in his first term, though not so near to the election. This was Jimmy Carter, who amidst a torrent of bad economic news asked his entire Cabinet to submit resignations, of which he accepted four.

It didn't help Carter; it made him look weak (or weaker, anyway). It didn't encourage the country; it made the public wonder whether anyone in Washington knew what they were doing. It didn't help Carter's party, and it didn't address the central dysfunction in his foreign policy team, that being the bitter rivalry of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and NSA Brzezinski. In short it was a humiliating and predictable disaster, one which Dan Drezner is now urging the Bush administration to repeat in the middle of an election campaign held in the middle of a war. No thanks.

Having said that, it is worth considering who will be who in the Republican Party if Bush wins in November, and if he loses. If he wins Giuliani is definitely in, almost certainly as Attorney General -- if we are all as concerned about the adequacy of the FBI's efforts against terrorism and its willingness to work with other government agencies a strong AG who already knows the territory will be needed, and Giuliani fills that bill better than anyone else. Zoellick, too, is in, having achieved more in the absence of effective support from his chief than any Cabinet-level official I can remember. He likely goes to State or Treasury. Blackwill, as far as I can tell, is in.

McCain is out. He will always be out as long as Bush is President, and anyone who does not understand why this is so has not been paying attention for the last four-odd years. Scowcroft, one of the last of a long list of people competent to staff Henry Kissinger but not to replace him as an architect of American foreign policy, is out. John Danforth will be out because he does not want to be Attorney General. Robert Kagan is out because Bush liked how Negroponte handled the UN job and will want another Negroponte -- dignified, skilled, unlikely to step on the President's press -- not another Moynihan. That's why Danforth is going to the UN now.

The other thing that strikes me about Dan's list is the number of really senior citizens on it. Bush may want to import some gravitas into his second term Cabinet, but not that much. Common sense tells you that the Republicans can't keep recycling Reagan and Bush 41 officials and politicians nearing their 70s through senior positions for very long. In fairness, common sense may be wrong -- the dominant members of Bush's current Cabinet have been two refugees from the Ford administration, a longtime backbench Pennsylvania Congressman and a former Missouri Senator who lost his seat to a man who had already died. Still you have to think that at least some senior positions in a second Bush term would end up going to younger people.

The second part of the question asked above had to do with who will be who in the Republican Party if Bush loses. Out of gratitude to those readers who have stayed with me this far I think I'll save that subject for another post.

posted by: Zathras on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

McCain would be a great change, but it is not going to happen. For one, I think it would shift the balance of the Senate, as Arizona has a Democrat as governor. And if the Senate shifts then the game is up for the GOP as the investigative powers of that branch would be released.

After the election this could be somewhat moot if the Republicans maintain or increase their majority in the senate. I agree McCain would be a great choice. He'd be good for State, as well (and pretty much all indications are that Powell won't serve out another four years). At any rate, perhaps the White House would be willing to accept a reduction of one GOP senator for McCain's services. I tend to agree, though, that Bush is not likely to want a prickly, difficult and very independent rival for a high profile cabinet post. Timing wise, though, the move might make sense for McCain, as he's approaching 70, and might be willing to make a move as he contemplates the summit of his career.

posted by: P.B. Almeida on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

I thank God Franklin Roosevelt didn't have you people to put up with.

Citing Brad DeLong = sacrificing all credibility.

posted by: BradDad on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

I've long wanted to see Thomas Sowell in the cabinet. He'd be equally suited for Treasury, but I thin he's more needed in the Department of Education. Treasury can go to Thomas W. Hazlett - can't go wrong with an onetime Cato Institute guy.

McCain as SecDef? At least it keeps him away from regulating speech during elections.

Henry Kissinger acted as an accommodationist. He belongs nowhere in government. Same goes for much of the State Department staff.

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Zathras has a good point,

Common sense tells you that the Republicans can't keep recycling Reagan and Bush 41 officials and politicians nearing their 70s through senior positions for very long. In fairness, common sense may be wrong ... Still you have to think that at least some senior positions in a second Bush term would end up going to younger people.

The ultimate failure of the Republican party has been the failure to generate a new generation of competent "grown up" Republican policy "wonks" who can "get the job done" without ideological controversy in order to serve their party ends. Instead they've generated a generation of Heiritage foundation and AEI ideological refugees whom I'm sure are very nice as people but wouldn't know realpolitick, Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, or pragmatism if it bit them in the butts. Alas this is what you get once the radicals seize control of the promotion schemes. There are such conservatives out there who know how to get the job done via implementation, but they're not being taken into the party apparatus and patronage schemes of the current Republican party. Ditto for the intelligence people. There are intelligent Intelligence worthy people out there, but the culture has become depraved and competence is a hindrance as a selling point because it might make your boss look bad if you took initiative. Hence for all his good intentions you promote into place people like "Slam dunk" Tenet.

posted by: oldman on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

It's not just that McCain's Senate seat would be taken by a Democrat, it's that McCain would never accept the Cabinet position. Bush is toast in November and a huge shake up of his Cabinet at this point would make him burnt toast. McCain would be unemployed on January 20, 2005 and I don't think he is ready to retire from public life.

posted by: Ed Thibodeau on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

Why not throw in one or two democrats? I realize this contravenes criterium #1 but 1) this country needs the best qualified people to lead and 2) it may help create goodwill and a mood of national unity - something much needed at this point.

Ah, have you bothered to consider the reason *why* there seems to be so little goodwill and a mood of national unity these days?

Free clue: demonizing the President is a big part of it. From where I'm sitting, it looks like a lot of them decided to make his term hell as payback over Florida, and were then embittered by having to shut up and act patriotic post 9/11.

I'm not going to vote for anyone I think puts their party affiliation ahead of being an American.

posted by: rosignol on 06.18.04 at 12:55 AM [permalink]

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