Today the House of Representatives. Tomorrow . . . what? Turning around the direction of the country and dodging Fiscal Armageddon is going to take more than a working majority in the House. Keeping in mind the usual caveat that politics alone may not be enough to get the job done, it is probably going to require a large conservative majority in the Senate. And it is probably going to require the absence of Barack Obama and his administration. Which brings us to the next election.
When I suggested that Sarah Palin be made chairman of the Republican National Committee, the committed Palin partisans came charging out of the penumbras, detecting in my suggestion a sinister plot to keep her from running for president in 2012. It wasn’t — I was still skeptical that she’d run, and I still am, a little. But it’s getting kind of hard to deny that she looks a whole lot like a candidate, and a frontrunner.
About that: I don’t have particularly strong feelings about Palin. She’s not my first choice for president of the United States, but she’s not my last, either. I’d much prefer a Palin administration to another Obama administration. Here’s the problem: People think she’s intellectually unserious. Before you hit that e-mail send button, re-read that sentence: I don’t think she’s a lightweight — I really don’t — but that’s her reputation. Big swaths of the American electorate believe her to be unqualified to serve as president, and she hasn’t done much in the past year or so to change voters’ minds.
So, here’s an idea for Sarah Palin, if she wants to run for president: She shouldn’t just announce her own individual candidacy. Instead, she should announce an administration: herself, possibly a vice presidential candidate, and at least a half a dozen key cabinet secretaries, especially treasury, state, defense, and commerce. Add to that a chairman of her Council of Economic Advisers. The question in 2012, then, won’t be Barack Obama vs. Sarah Palin — it will be the Obama administration vs. the Palin administration: a very different kind of question.
You don’t have to think Sarah Palin is dull to agree that expounding on fine-grained policy detail has not been her forte — she’s an inspirational figure, and her appeal is more about values than about policy proposals. But somebody has to talk about the policy stuff, too. Announcing a Team Palin from Day 1 would totally change the conversation — and possibly help to thin out the primary field, too.
This isn’t just a political gimmick: 2012 is a key election for conservatives. There is a real chance to turn around the direction of our country, one that should not be missed. The stakes at present are very high, and the issues at hand are larger than any individual’s political ambitions. A conservative Republican unity ticket dedicated to restoring fiscal and economic sanity in Washington could, if played right, change history.
So, here’s my entry into conservatives’ favorite parlor game: Staff the Palin Administration. I know there are enormous problems with these choices — not all of these people are even Republicans or conservatives, some of them aren’t particularly well-disposed toward Palin, some of the business types would be hesitant to enter politics, etc. — consider it more my personal dream team than a set of plausible picks.
Got better choices? Name your own team in the comments section.
Vice President of the United States
WHY: The strongest 2012 candidate right now is “Generic Republican,” and Mitt Romney is as close to a generic Republican as the world is apt to see: silver spoon, plain brown wrapper. He is the vanilla ice cream of American politics: nobody’s favorite, but nobody’s least favorite, either. Smart, decent, reliable. Good to have a guy around who knows how to read a balance sheet, and excellent to have one who has actually turned a profit as a profit-turning enterprise.
Secretary of State
WHY: Because he will strike fear into the hearts of our enemies. Our friends, too. Most awesome political mustache since Bismarck.
Secretary of the Treasury
WHY: “The Knife” is the man you want standing athwart Treasury, yelling, Stop!
Secretary of Defense
WHY: Somebody has to be good cop to Bolton’s bad cop. Also, General Petraeus has more credibility than just about anybody else on the scene. Unflappable.
WHY: The Texas Supreme Court chief justice is a super-smart lawyer and a Washington outsider, well positioned to reform and streamline the way DOJ does business: the necessary antidote to four years of Eric Holder.
Secretary of the Interior
WHY: The Cato scholar understands federal regulations better than the regulators — who better to reform them? But he’s no patsy of the business interests who profit from federal corporate welfare, either.
Secretary of Agriculture
WHY: The Archer Daniels Midland CEO is steeped in the subtleties of the commodities markets and the real business of agriculture. Want to sell more stuff to China? How about we start with food? She’d be perfect, if we can afford her.
Secretary of Commerce
WHY: As CEO of Pepsico, she’s been one of the most successful executives of our times and a first-rate negotiator. Now is the time to start cutting new trade deals and get the economy moving again.
Secretary of Labor
WHY: Poetic to have Fidel Castro’s Republican nephew slugging it out with the labor unions that remain the last robust vestige of old-fashioned thug socialism in the United States.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
WHY: Has actually fixed a health-care system. That’s saying something. Put him in charge of replacing Obamacare with a consumer-driven, market-based system.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Robert C. Merton
WHY: Because we need a smart financial economist to help us unwind the housing-securities mess and send Fannie and Freddie bye-bye. Nobel Prize in Economics is a nice line on his résumé.
Secretary of Transportation
WHY: The Heritage Foundation scholar has a nose for waste when it comes to infrastructure spending. DoT is hog heaven when it comes to federal pork — and Utt is the sort of guy who might actually enjoy cleaning it up.
Secretary of Energy
WHY: She’s the CEO of Sunoco, a hugely profitable oil company that is also the industry’s model for good corporate citizenship when it comes to the environment. She knows how to strike the balance. Likes to play hoops, too.
Secretary of Education
Harvey “C-Minus” Mansfield
WHY: Because the Harvard don believes in defending standards and not in suffering fools.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Unfilled. Why is this still a separate cabinet department? Send it to DoD, for Pete’s sake. If only there were some senior Republican senator, maybe a nationally famous war hero with a longstanding interest in veterans’ affairs, to shepherd through the legislation. Suggestions?
Secretary of Homeland Security
WHY: Because we need some steel in our spine on everything from border-control to straightening out TSA. Also, why should Tina Fey dominate all the wig-and-dress action in a Palin administration? Also, Rudy owes the world an act of penance after failing to run for governor of New York, leaving the field to Carl Paladino.
Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
WHY: We’re going to need a monetary economist — just a hunch. Also, can provide the cabinet with excellent advice on out-of-the-way lunch spots in the D. C. area. Generally brilliant.