2008 The Best Reason to Elect Barack Obama
posted by September 18 at 16:24 PMon
… is something David Plotz brought up in a September 12th edition of Slate’s Political Gabfest: his cabinet.
Obama could have his pick of a well-stocked and highly motivated bench of left- and center-leaning experts in every relevant field of governance—serious people with solid policy ideas and a sense of what should be done at the Federal level to start solving our problems.
It’s a relatively popular game for political pundits to do a fantasy draft for Obama. With this list to pick his roster, how couldn’t it be fun?
Let’s just talk about economic teams. The Economist is positively giddy:
On domestic matters, Obama has assembled a team of sharp academic economists who premise their work on his supposed ability to sell sophisticated policy. Most prominent has been Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor whom many expect to head a President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Goolsbee’s record suggests neither the hostility to globalized capitalism nor the desire for large-scale redistribution that conservatives, spooked by tales of Obama’s left-wing record, might fear: Goolsbee is a problem solver who favors such unsexy proposals as altering U.S. tax forms…
From Harvard, Obama plucked Jeffrey Liebman, who has produced good research on the earned-income tax credit and its role in moving people from welfare to work, and David Cutler, a health economist who wants doctors’ pay tied to medical outcomes.
As of last week, though, Obama’s newly appointed economics director is Jason Furman, an economist in the Clinton administration. His presence rebuts criticism that Obama’s team has too little policymaking experience.
Furman, too, hews to the center, heading Washington’s Hamilton Project, co-founded by Bob Rubin, once Clinton’s treasury secretary.
Furman is a staunch free-trader who once praised Wal-Mart and has favored lowering corporate taxes. With a Ph.D. from Harvard, he, also, does not lack for academic credentials.
On the economic front, Obama relies on a handful of academics likely to make the leap into government if he wins. The University of Chicago’s Austan Goolsbee, who writes the Economic Scene column for the New York Times, seems a shoo-in for the policy-focused Council on Economic Advisers, where under President Bush Glenn Hubbard became a powerful force. Harvard pension expert Jeffrey Liebman would likely be headed to the politically focused National Economic Council, where Robert Rubin got his start in the Clinton White House. A third name on Obama’s economic team is David Cutler, a Harvard health economist who served on both councils under Clinton.
There isn’t a clear front-runner for Treasury secretary, which could be good news for former secretary and Harvard president Larry Summers, who has been not-so-quietly campaigning to return to his old post. Timothy F. Geithner, head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, would be a solid choice for Treasury.
Another stratagem for keeping financial markets calm would be to keep Henry Paulson, who has earned the respect of many Democrats, in office for a year or two.
Two Hillary Clinton backers who could wind up in an Obama White House are former Goldman Sachs executive and assistant Treasury secretary Gary Gensler and Covington & Burling’s Stuart Eizenstat, Carter’s domestic-policy chief and deputy Treasury secretary under Clinton.
Who could McCain pick? The Republican bench is stripped clean; Bush is already operating with sub-C-list people. The few competent people on the right —people actually interested in running a country rather than running for election—are already so battered and bruised. Why on earth would they want to go for another eight rounds?
Could you imagine the telephone call to Colin Powell? Or Christine Todd Whitman?
“Hi General Powell! How’d you like to be the Secretary of State again?”
“We even have a war or two more planned. UN time again? I’m sure serving under both President McCain and President Palin will be a blast!”
Even the Republican Press Secretaries are fed up with being in government. Part of this is just fatigue after eight years of “running” things, however incompetently. Part is, while those on the left or center were busy studying things like economics, engineering, political science and medicine, the right-leaning kids were fighting over leadership of the College Republicans. The latter is a good plan to get lots of people able to win elections, but not run a country.
If McCain really is the better man, the team he’ll have to use to enact his vision would be totally unequal to the challenges. Even if Obama picks the worst among his available choices, he’ll assemble a vastly better team than McCain.