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Third Party Cabinet Draft Picks: 2008

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.


Secretary of Treasury: The Warren Buffett of institutional investors is a man named David Swenson. Since 1985, Swenson has managed the endowment of Yale University and arguably invested it better than any pot of institutional money in the country.

In a new era of Wall Street robber barons, Swenson personifies the word "fiduciary." And genius. He hasn't jumped Yale for a hedge fund and I doubt he would shaft your children's economic future to pay for tax cuts and spending increases. He is a good writer which means he can communicate with the rest of us mortals.

Director, Office of Management and Budget: If there really is someone called "Mrs. Clean" on Wall Street, it would be Sallie Krawcheck, the chief financial officer of Citigroup. "Fortune" once ran a headline that called her, "The Last Honest Analyst." When Citigroup had honesty issues, Krawcheck was brought in for the fix. The federal budget has some honesty issues.

Secretary of Commerce: Instead of wasting a Cabinet slot on currying favor and money with business, how about letting one of the greatest business growers in economic history try a few tricks? That would be John Doerr, the brilliant dean of Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Starting in 1980, Doerr was instrumental in sprouting Compaq, Intuit, Netscape, Lotus, Sun Microsystems and Amazon.com, just to pick a few names.

Secretary of Health and Human Services: One of the more despicable attributes of this regime is its disrespect for science. The remedy for that in the medical sphere is Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, the outfit that is mapping human DNA. He is a powerful and articulate public communicator and advocate for research and open access to it.

Secretary of Education: Mayor Bloomberg will stick with his pick, the current head of the New York city public school system, Joel Klein. Before taking on the schools of the country's biggest, weirdest city, Klein was the chief cop at the Securities and Exchange Commission. He knows how to fight every kind of bureaucracy and organization. And he chose public service over cashing in.

Secretary of Labor: This was one of the easy picks: Gene Upshaw, head of the National Football League Players Association and former star guard for the Oakland Raiders. He is the last attractive and well-known trade union head in America and the only one tough, savvy and maverick enough to sit at the table with President Bloomberg and the other billionaires I've stuck in the Cabinet.

Secretary of Interior: One of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated over several decades by the secret cabal of corporate and Republican America has been the myth that environmentalism is not conservative and is anti-business. Nothing – repeat nothing – is more conservative than conserving nature: think about it. Furthermore, nothing – nothing – creates more social dislocation, the real enemy of proper conservatives, than unfettered economic powers. Anyway, the key to finally killing that myth and having a real policy is selling and communication. Al Gore can't do it but Tom Brokaw can. With help, of course, so see below.

Director, Environmental Protection Agency: Dazzlingly articulate, the perfect match for Brokaw would be Thomas Lovejoy, a biologist who was the World Bank's Chief Biodiversity Advisor and before that, Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Secretary of Energy: To round out the trio of people who will reinvent environmentalism is the man who appears to be the smartest person on the planet, Nathan Myhrvold, once chief technologist at Microsoft. An entrepreneur in his own right, Myrhvold is stocked with gazillions and various high degrees in physics, geophysics and mathematical economics. He is now a part-time paleontologist. If he can figure out why the dinosaurs died he can figure out our fossil fuel problem.

Secretary of Transportation: Did you know that you don't have to be a citizen to be in the Cabinet? It's true. That makes this pick easy: Richard Branson, who reinvented the airline business with his Virgin Air. We need much more reinvention.

Secretary of Veteran Affairs: One of the founding fathers of AOL was a West Point graduate and Vietnam vet named Jim Kimsey. He has a high profile in Washington because of his philanthropy. He always has the clout and skill to build a proper health care system for the people who have served in the military.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: One of President Bloomberg's most promising fellow mayors is Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles. He played well on the national stage during the immigration debate and being a big city mayor is the best qualification for this job.

Secretary of Agriculture: If Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, can figure out how to sell polyester fleece sweatshirts to teenagers and yuppies for $300, he can figure how the people who grow food can earn livings. And he'll look good doing it.

If you like every name in this list, you have no business in the Independent Party. Some of these names should infuriate you. The whole idea here is to get accomplished people with huge brains and different world views together and show the country that it doesn't have to settle for second-rate service and propaganda from its government. If you have better names for the jobs, send them in. There is still some time before the Independent Party launches. At least on this planet.



Dick Meyer is the editorial director of CBSNews.com.

E-mail questions, comments, complaints, arguments and ideas to
Against the Grain. We will publish some of the interesting (and civil) ones, sometimes in edited form.

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