Politics Straight No Chaser: Obama’s Cabinet to date: A Who’s Who
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
When a second term comes around for a president, it’s a chance to continue the fight for their agenda. However, it isn’t always simple. With a new term, some members of the previous cabinet move on and whether they retire, set up another run for the presidency or just overstay their welcome, they leave a vacant seat. This year’s major losses included Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and the Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, all of whom have had their successors nominated. And in the post-election lull, (after the debt crisis was partially resolved) the appointments to the vacated positions became a major story.
What was the biggest story from the cabinet appointments? Figuring out who was replacing former New York Senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton to head the State Department. It was quickly apparent that this was going to be a two horse race between Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. On the surface, this would have been an easy decision—clearly the U.N. Ambassador would have a better grasp on foreign policy than a U.S. Senator, but that’s simply not the case. Perhaps because he is better remembered for losing the presidential election to former President George W. Bush in 2004, Kerry does not get the credit he deserves outside of politics.
Kerry has always been one of the foremost leaders abroad. He has been Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations since 2009 and has acted as a diplomatic envoy to Pakistan in the wake of the killing of Osama Bin Laden to help repair ties and attempt to retrieve the tail section of the helicopter that crashed during the mission. He has also gone to Egypt to sew relationships with President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. After acting as a diplomat for years, Kerry will finally get the job which was seemingly made for him—head of the State Department.
But Kerry’s credentials were not the only reason he was chosen for the position over Rice, who also has a strong resume. Rice removed herself from consideration for the position in response to the Benghazi attack on the U.S. embassy. With her role in the response to the attacks being questioned by Republican lawmakers, she cited a long and costly confirmation process as her reason for backing out of contention. It was a prudent move on her part, no doubt. Even though confirmation hearings tend to be senators acting tough and important, her career could have been very damaged due to the media’s obsession over the soundbite and any weak answer on Benghazi.
The other major departure is Panetta. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) is nominated to take his place . While Kerry is most definitely an Obama ally, Hagel should not be. However, looking at his record as a senator makes his nomination a little easier to understand. After voting for military action in Iraq, he became a skeptic of the war and even voted with Democrats in 2007 to start troop withdrawal. Hagel and the president share the same views on national security, as he supports direct negotiation with Iran and opposed some proposed sanctions against them. He also raised the issue of cutting defense spending, which caused a stir in the Senate.
Hagel’s nomination drew fire from the Israel lobby, who he legitimately questioned his time in the Senate. He stated, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here… I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.” With his legitimate concerns regarding the power and influence of the Israeli interest groups combined with his sympathy towards the Palestinian plight, those same interest groups are now coming out to denounce the nomination.
Adding to the issues of his confirmation is former colleague, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). At one point, Hagel and McCain, once close friends in the Senate, started to differ on policy. McCain does not approve of Hagel’s standpoint concerning Iran and certainly isn’t happy with his past opinions on Iraq. Now that McCain sits and gets to ask questions of Hagel in the confirmation process, he seems determined to stall the confirmation as long as possible. It seems to be working so far.
The other two official nominations are Jack Lew for Secretary of the Treasury and Sally Jewell for Secretary of the Interior. Lew, Obama’s most recent Chief of Staff, has raised questions in the media, for of all things, his signature. At best, it resembles the white frosting on top of a Hostess Cupcake—it’s still the most inconsequential thing they could ask of Lew. They did come around and question his role as Chief Operating Officer of Citigroup. While there, they had $27.7 billion in losses and received $45 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program signed into law by President Bush in 2008. While it would seem he did not have much to do with those losses, coming from the traders at Citigroup, it is certainly a more valid question than his signature.
The nomination of Recreational Equipment Inc. CEO, Sally Jewell, is a solid one and shouldn’t draw too much flak from Republican senators. A former engineer for Mobil Oil who then went into banking for 20 years and then to REI, first as COO and then CEO, before winning the Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson award for leadership in conservation, she is most definitely well-rounded and experienced enough to warrant the nomination.
Obama will still have to replace his Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy. As of now the current head of the National Transportation Safety board Deborah Hersman has been named as a contender for the Secretary of Transportation position. A few possibilities for Secretary of Energy include Jim Rogers, Cathy Zoi, Kathleen McGinty and Louis Hay III. A member of the board of directors for Facebook Sheryl Sandberg was also mentioned as a contender for Secretary of Commerce but no one has been discussed for Secretary of Labor. None of these positions should be particularly contentious other than the typical minority party maneuvering to delay merely for the sake of delaying.