Third Party Cabinet Draft Picks: 2008

stock photo of the White House AP

This commentary was written by CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer.
I think it's pretty much a done deal that a well-financed, hyper-competent third party will make a serious run at the White House in 2008 backed by a slate of superstar Senate candidates.

A few weeks ago we laid out both the need and obstacles to breaking the corrupt and scary vice grip on government power perpetrated by the partisan duopoly.

Later we outlined the nuts and bolts strategy that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his running mate, General Anthony Zinni, could use to capture the White House and deliver a score of Senate seats to the new Independent Party. Support for these ideas, as judged by the wholly objective and precise measure of e-mails, clicks and blog links, has been overwhelming.

It is in the spirit of the Independent Party to name its Cabinet well before the election. It is the honest, transparent thing to do; it will help in the campaign; and it will better prepare the party to govern.

Naming a Cabinet now is also in the great American tradition of All-Star teams, obsessing over the NFL Draft and rotisserie baseball upon which the Independent Party is founded.

This Cabinet, unlike real ones, is composed of people who really should have the jobs and who are not politically expedient compromises. It has a lot of zillionaires, which is a problem, but they do tend to have accomplished great things. It's a Cabinet that could by example help draw top talent back into public service for generations.

Two quick notes: Presidential candidates don't name their Cabinets during elections because they're afraid of gaffes and scandals, which is stupid. There is no better way for a voter to judge a potential administration than to judge its Cabinet selections. If one of the picks has some secret, we'll sack him and move on. And maybe that will break the cycle of silly confirmation scandal stories for good.

Secondly, President Bloomberg will run his administration through the Cabinet and the powerful, distinguished people who run the various units of government. It will not be an aide-centric government, like those to which we've become inured in recent administrations. So we're not naming the chief of staff and stuff like that.

Here is the Cabinet:

Secretary of State: If there is one diplomat or statesman who has shined through the blood and mud of the Bush administration, it is the ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. His diplomatic skills are reported to be immense and he is now poised to take over managing the U.S.'s relations with Iran.

Before Iraq, Khalilzad was ambassador to Afghanistan, the country where he was born. He came to America as an exchange student in high school and went on to get a Ph.D. form the University of Chicago. It is hard to imagine a better story and a better resume. Yes, he is marginally tainted by associations with chicken-hawk neoconservatives, but he seems uniquely suited to accomplish a great deal in the most dangerous part of the world.

Secretary of Defense: The Pentagon needs someone who is a veteran, who has run a large organization, who is completely briefed on the current national security reality, who is used to being a highly visible public advocate and who has a moral compass. Senator Chuck Hagel is the only name I can come up with. He has bucked Bush consistently on his foreign and Iraq policy, though he did cast a qualified vote for the war resolution.

Hagel has a maverick streak that I suppose the generals will despise and that some wags think is McCain-lite. I think he operates in good faith with toughness and brains. He saw combat in Vietnam and eventually started a hugely successful international cell phone company. He knows the world and isn't an ideologue.

Homeland Security: The world's greatest logistics genius is Fred Smith, the man who invented FedEx. As an advocate of tiny government, not just small government, Smith may think the Department of Homeland Security shouldn't exist. And that's fine. But he is also one of the few people competent enough to actually manage this bureaucratic beluga. If he can disassemble it after running it for a couple years, that's cool.

Director of National Intelligence: The man for this job is obviously Sam Nunn, the former Democratic Senator from Georgia and the last Senator to establish real power strictly through expertise. Nunn has consistently known as much about defense and nuclear issues as any American for the past three decades. He can see both sides of an argument, which is an unheard-of-trait in this administration, and the key virtue of a spymaster. Michael Hayden can stay on at the C.I.A. for the time being - if Nunn and Bloomberg want him.

Attorney General: The country would have weathered the Bush administration with considerably less damage if there had been just one person – one – who had the legal knowledge, investigative skills and testicular fortitude to challenge programs like the NSA's domestic surveillance, warehousing "enemy combatants" on Caribbean islands and putting dog leashes on prisoners. Warren Rudman should have been in Bush's cabinet and he will be for Bloomberg.

Rudman was the last member of Congress to run a tough, competent ethics Committee. He led the Iran-Contra investigation. He and Gary Hart wrote the most comprehensive and concerned assessment of domestic security there was before 9/11 and they were proven right. After the Senate, he has led high profile investigations of Fannie Mae and the NASDAQ stock exchange. He would be an excellent choice to run Defense, State, Homeland Security, the C.I.A., or Treasury – which is exactly why we need him as Attorney General. He'd be a good president, too.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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