Dateline: 12 March 2008
The Republican race is officially over. Maverick Congressman Ron Paul has not yet conceded, but he has just won his primary to return to Congress, so even he knows it’s over.
The Democrats will be fighting for months to come. Senator Clinton will win Pennsylvania and Senator Obama will win North Carolina. Both will claim to have won the popular vote overall. She will remind voters that he is inexperienced and untried. Her surrogates will whisper that there are still too many people who will not vote for a Black candidate. He will smile sweetly and speak of her volatility and poor judgment. He will stop short of mentioning ‘hormones’ or ‘hot flashes’. We will hear all the arguments about why Florida and Michigan should be disenfranchised and the alternative reasons why they should not.
In other words, for all the increasing vitriol of the fight and the disdain that Clinton and Obama show for each other’s supporters, the Democrats will stay in the news.
John McCain needs to counter that by creating news of his own. He needs to show us the nucleus of his administration. The world will want to know what sort of person will be Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary, Attorney General, Commerce Secretary and Secretary of Defense.
None of this should be seen as a promise to appoint particular people, but a shadow cabinet, of people authorized to speak on behalf of McCain, could reveal the possible shape the administration.
One position, however, should be kept deliberately open. McCain should not announce yet, and probably not until the convention, who his running mate will be. It should also be very clear that people holding other briefs, will be considered for vice-president.
There is no shortage of talent. On the economic team should be people such as former Senator Phil Gramm and former Congressmen John Kasich and Rob Portman. Portman is a former director of the Office of Management and Budget. Kasich is currently a TV presenter. Both were Congressmen in the key state of Ohio, and Kasich was also born in the swing state of Pennsylvania.
The legal team, covering such positions as Attorney General and Homeland Security Secretary, would include former candidates Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, as well as former Deputy at Homeland Security, Larry Thompson.
Giuliani would also be a possible candidate for Secretary of State, a department that desperately needs management reform. Independent Senator Joe Lieberman is another obvious contender for State or Defense.
Slowly developing a core team set the news agenda. It would show people that he is ready to govern while the Democrats are still fighting among themselves. It is an opportunity to look like an adult while the Democrats squabble like children.
Last time a Republican President was term limited the candidate to replace him was his Vice-President. As members of Reagan’s cabinet quit to pursue other careers he replaced them with people nominated by George Bush. Both the Education Secretary and the Attorney General were appointed in this way. Some people – serving Governors or Senators, for example – would be unlikely to quit for a cabinet job from which they would certainly be fired in the event of a Democratic win in November. Nonetheless, it is another way to reveal the shape of a McCain administration.