The Wall Street crisis and the Bush administration’s push for a $700 billion bailout plan have raised the question of who might serve as treasury secretary in the next administration.
And that speculation, in turn, has increased conjecture about candidates for all Cabinet posts, as well as other key positions, depending on whether Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain is elected.
Following are some top prospects if Obama is elected:
Secretary of State: Obama will face perhaps his biggest test in his choice of the nation’s top diplomat. Will he choose a reliable Democrat with ties to Bill Clinton, such as Tony Lake, or turn to his trusted, albeit Republican, friend in the Senate, Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana? Another possible choice: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former Cabinet secretary and U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration, who endorsed Obama at a crucial point in the Democratic presidential primary. Former Rep. Lee Hamilton could be a dark-horse candidate.
Treasury: Obama recently said he would consider asking Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to remain in office during a transition. But he also has relied heavily on two former Clinton Treasury secretaries, Lawrence Summers, the former president of Harvard University, and former Citigroup chief Robert Rubin. A dark-horse candidate is Timothy Geithner, a Rubin protégé. As president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner has had a supporting role in managing the Wall Street crisis. Also mentioned is Laura Tyson, former chairwoman of the White House National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers under Clinton.
Defense: Obama has said he may retain Robert Gates for an interim period, although that statement met with strong opposition from his party’s liberal corners. Other names mentioned include Richard Danzig, Chuck Hagel, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, and former NATO Commander Wesley Clark.
Attorney General: Obama has close ties to two African-American prosecutors, Eric Holder, a former U.S. attorney under President Clinton, and Artur Davis, a Harvard-educated Alabaman who was a civil-rights lawyer before he became an assistant U.S. attorney and a congressman in 2002. Obama also could pick one of two women governors who were state attorneys general before being elected to head their states and who offered him key backing in his primary against Sen. Hillary Clinton: Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Christine Gregoire of Washington state. Yet another intriguing option: Chicago's U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, who gained prominence while prosecuting the CIA leak probe that led to the downfall of Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby.
Interior: Two senior House Democrats from western states, Norm Dicks of Washington state and George Miller of California, have had long careers focused on the environment and interior issues. Both are close to Obama and have made no secret of their interest in a Cabinet post. Other possibilities include Reps. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Mark Udall of Colorado. But both Udalls are favored to win Senate races in their home states.
Agriculture: Brian Schweitzer, a rancher seeking his second term as governor of Montana, is a top prospect to run Agriculture under Obama. But Schweitzer has insisted during his re-election bid that the only job he wants is “right here in Montana.” It remains to be seen whether his tune changes once the 2008 elections are over.
Commerce: Obama could turn to an old Chicago hand with experience at the department, Bill Daley, who was Commerce secretary under Clinton. Another option is ex-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee.
Labor: All signs point to Dick Gephardt, the former House Democratic leader and two-time candidate for the White House. Gephardt has strong ties to organized labor and is considered a reliable, smart policymaker who has good relations with all wings of the Democratic Party.
Health and Human Services: Given Clinton’s strong focus on healthcare reform during the primary, Obama will be under heavy pressure to offer her this post. It’s not clear, however, that he’d so do or that Clinton is interested in the job, especially if she’s considering another bid for the White House. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is another possible candidate.
Housing and Urban Development: Democrats often turn to mayors, sitting or former, to fill this post. If Obama follows that practice, three former mayors lead the pack: Tony Williams of Washington, D.C., Dennis Archer of Detroit, or Shirley Franklin of Atlanta.
Transportation: Obama likes Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee and a well-respected voice on the country’s infrastructure needs. Another option is Rep. Xavier Becerra of California.
Energy: The two top contenders appear to be Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Phil Sharp, a former congressman from Indiana who now heads the environmental think tank Resources for the Future. Obama also could turn to two governors who have made energy independence a top priority, New Mexico’s Richardson and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.
EPA Administrator: Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who has signaled that he’d be willing to serve in a Democratic administration, or Sharp, if he doesn’t get the Energy post. Sebelius is also on this short list.
Education: The top prospects include New York public schools chancellor Joel Klein and Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University's School Redesign Network and Educational Leadership Institute, a top Obama adviser on education. Other possible choices include two former governors of red states that Obama is trying to win this fall, Roy Romer of Colorado and Jim Hunt of North Carolina.
Veterans Affairs: Sen. James Webb of Virginia or former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia are decorated Vietnam War veterans who are popular red-state Democrats.
United Nations Ambassador: Al Gore has said he didn’t want to run for vice president — again. But he has left the door open to taking on a more global, less political, role in an Obama administration. Gore is the likely front-runner at the U.N.
Homeland Security: For this post, Obama could look to some top Republicans who have been critical of the war on terror, including Hagel or Lugar.
Chief of Staff: Tom Daschle. Another possibility includes John Podesta, a former chief of staff to Clinton, who is leading the transition preparations for Obama.
National Security Adviser: Susan Rice, Clinton's assistant secretary of state for African affairs and a top Obama campaign adviser, is widely mentioned as Obama’s choice for this sub-Cabinet post.
Communications Director/Press Secretary: Robert Gibbs, a seasoned media guru, who has become a master at sparring with cable talking heads for Obama’s campaign during the past 19 months.
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