As we get down to the last few weeks before President Obama’s inauguration, I have to say that I’m mostly very impressed with his appointments so far. It’s not all perfect, of course; he could hardly be expected to please anyone completely. But the President-elect has, overall, made a great set of choices for his cabinet and close advisors.
For the record, here’s the incoming presidential succession, assuming that all nominees are confirmed. Succession spots 4 through 18 are the fifteen cabinet departments (in their order of creation).
Some selected comments follow.
1 Vice President Joe Biden 2 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi 3 President pro tempore of the Senate Robert Byrd 4 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 5 Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner 6 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates 7 Attorney General Eric Holder 8 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar 9 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack 10 Secretary of Commerce Bill Richardson 11 Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis 12 Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Daschle 13 Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan 14 Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood 15 Secretary of Energy Steven Chu 16 Secretary of Education Arne Duncan 17 Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki 18 Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano
First, the most obvious comment: President Obama’s appointment of Senator Clinton to head the Department of State was a bold one. He’s picked up four former opponents from his presidential campaign: Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, and Tom Vilsack. But Ms Clinton was his strongest opponent, and, until it became clear that he had won the nomination, his most severe critic. Yet it’s clear that they largely support the same agenda for the 44th presidency, and that the incoming Secretary of State is an excellent choice for that position, in particular. I’m looking forward to seeing where our foreign policy goes.
While we’re on former opponents: anyone reading this blog for long knows that I’ve been a supporter of Bill Richardson. I was disappointed when he abandoned his own bid for the presidency, but was happy, then, when he endorsed Mr Obama. Governor Richardson, with his rich background and broad experience would be a good choice for any of several cabinet posts, including State, Energy, Interior, and Labor. Commerce is also a good match for him, and he should have a smooth confirmation.
I really have to cheer for the choice of Steven Chu for the Department of Energy. A Nobel laureate and a practicing scientist, Dr Chu is bound to lead the way, along with Mr Obama’s other science appointees, in bringing the U.S. back to the mainstream of science. Dr Chu is also well able to lead our approaches to sustainable energy and climate change, and to run the national laboratories, which fall under the DoE.
Hilda Solís is an inspired choice for the Department of Labor. She certainly has her detractors, and there will be conflicts with business management because of her strongly pro-union background. But few alternatives would match Congresswoman Solís’s connections to labor and to concomitant immigration issues.
New York’s Shaun Donovan is also an exceptional selection for Housing and Urban Development. HUD is one of the overlooked cabinet departments, and needs a strong hand to keep it from falling into the background. Mr Donovan clearly can be that strong hand, having handled housing issues in what’s probably the most challenging urban environment in the country.
I’m also pleased with Mr Obama’s nominations of Governor Napolitano for DHS, and Arne Duncan for Education — Mr Duncan can bridge the gap between pro- and anti-NCLB factions, and perhaps can steer NCLB into a position as a successful long-term program. And his retention of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense underscores his recognition of the need for continuity as we look toward withdrawing ourselves from military involvement in Iraq.
What a great start to the 44th presidency!
 Gosh, it feels so good to say that: “President Obama”.