October 27, 2004

The Kerry Cabinet

Laura Rozen drags up the odds-on favorites for spots in a Kerry administration. So many names, so few positions. Have to say I'm a bit disappointed not to see Anthony Zinni on that list, even for a deputy spot somewhere.

Anyways, of all those slots Defense is going to be the hardest position to fill. I'm not sold on putting in a Republican Senator, like John McCain or John Warner, purely for decorative purposes. A Secretary of Defense should be someone who a) has executive experience of some kind; b) works well with military commanders, unlike Les Aspin or William Cohen; and c) has a coherent and strong vision for the future of national defense. There are probably other considerations, but those are the big ones.

Personally, I think William Perry fits the bill—his idea of using military relationships to shape regional landscapes was a radical one, and would work well with a Holbrooke or Biden-led State Department. (Perry's predecessor, William Cohen, seemed mostly clueless on how to use his evolving military, and he mostly ended up stymieing Madeline Albright's brand of "coercive democracy.) But barring Perry or Zinni I'm not sure who would be a good fit. Gary Hart perhaps. He obviously saw the terror threat coming long before most; though he also tends to have a soft spot for rogue states and dictators. (I know there's supposed to be a big debate about whether our main threats come from rogue states or non-state actors; the answer, of course, is "both," and Hart is sort of on the opposite extreme from, say, Paul Wolfowitz in this question.)

As a side note, this whole debate over who will serve in the Kerry cabinet really underscores the importance of winning the presidency. Democrats have only held the presidency for 12 of the last 36 years, and their administrative bench is a lot less deep than the Republicans. When Bush came to office in 2000, he had a whole slew of competent officials to choose from. Unfortunately, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rice had disproportionate sway over the process, and so we got a lot of missile-defense buffs, Iran-Contra throwbacks and other ideologues. But there was at least a deep roster available, and the Democrats sort of lack that.
-- Brad Plumer 2:27 PM || ||