Saturday, November 08, 2008

Obama's Republicans

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In presidential administrations, it is not uncommon for members of the opposing Party to hold positions in the cabinet. George W. Bush had one (Transportation), Bill Clinton had one (Defense), John F. Kennedy actually appointed two (Treasury, Defense). So which Republicans could Obama appoint to his cabinet?

Popular names that come up include Gen. Colin Powell and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, retired Senators Jim Jeffords and Lincoln Chaffee, or former Massachusettes Governor William Weld (a late endorser of Barack Obama in the general election). Outgoing Senator John Warner from Virginia could also be a helpful ally in helping Obama reach out to the opposition party. And recently defeated Congressman Chris Shays has indicated an interest in working with the administration.

There's also a political factor here, too: Obama could select Republicans to put in positions which insulate the administration against political attacks, or he could select Senators from states with Democratic Governors, with subsequent appointments by the Governor thereby increasing the Democratic majority in the Senate. This may not get 60 votes in the Senate, but it gets Democrats a bit closer.

This would seem to make the case for Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine (Democratic Governor John Baldacci appoints), Chuck Grassley from Iowa (Dem. Governor Chut Culver), Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania (Dem. Governor Ed Rendell), and George Voinovich of Ohio (Dem Governor Ted Strickland). The problem with the two Maine Senators is that they may in fact be more helpful to the administration in the Senate.

The assemblage of this cabinet is clearly going to be a longer and more difficult task than in years past, given the political and economic climate the country is in at this time. So it's impossible to say exactly. But there is precedent that the President-Elect will reach across the aisle. The question is, who will it be?