Politics & Policy

In The Event The Challenger Wins

Some possible appointees for key economic posts in a Kerry administration.

I have long believed that presidential challengers would help themselves by announcing at least some of their top appointments before the election. After all, we already know the incumbent’s appointees. I think it would help many voters make up their minds and swing a few if they had a better idea of how a candidate’s actions would match his words.

In Europe, where parliamentary systems predominate, this sort of thing is taken for granted. Opposition parties always have “shadow cabinets,” where designated people target particular departments for special attention. They are assumed to be given those portfolios should their party gain a majority, and often are.

Not only does this give voters much greater knowledge of what to expect should the opposition gain control, it gives valuable experience and training to those in line to become ministers in a new government. And shadow cabinets make it easier to create coalitions and help assuage the fears of those wary of changing horses in the middle of a stream.

With this in mind, I have taken it upon myself to suggest some possible appointees for key economic posts in a John Kerry administration. This is mostly a forecast based on research and some informal polling, but also includes a bit of wishful thinking on my part.

Department of State. I see Felix Rohatyn, the New York banker, as an excellent choice for this position. He was ambassador to France during the Clinton administration and has long been one of the Democratic party’s “wise men.” Alternatively, I see Richard Holbrooke, U.N. ambassador under Clinton, or Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. (Biden could also be U.N. ambassador.)

Department of the Treasury. Roger Altman, another New York banker, seems the odds-on favorite for this position. He was deputy secretary under Clinton, wants the job badly, and has paid his dues to the Democratic party and Sen. Kerry. Rohatyn might also be considered for Treasury as well.

Office of Management and Budget. Everyone mentions John Spratt, the congressman from South Carolina and ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. He is widely respected on both sides of the aisle.

Bob National Economic Council. Steve Rattner, yet another New York banker, fits the mould of Rubin and Stephen Friedman, who have previously headed this important White House office. A former New York Times reporter, he has long been active in Democratic circles.

Council of Economic Advisors. Alan Blinder, who was a member of the CEA and vice chairman of the Federal Reserve under Clinton, would seem ideal to chair this organization. Some potential CEA members would include economists Bill Gale and Peter Orszag, both of the Brookings Institution.

U.S. Trade Representative. Gene Sperling, NEC director under Clinton, would be an excellent choice. A free trader, he will be needed by Kerry to counter the protectionists who inevitably will be appointed at Labor and Commerce. (I have also heard Gene mentioned as a possible White House chief of staff.) Lael Brainard of Brookings, a top international economist for Clinton, is another possibility.

Federal Reserve. Alan Greenspan will retire at some point in the next four years, giving Kerry the ability to replace him. Former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin will be at the top of the list of potential chairmen. Should he turn it down, Blinder or Franklin Raines, head of housing giant Fannie Mae, are likely alternatives.

Department of Commerce. Laura Tyson, head of the CEA and NEC under Clinton, would be a good choice here. She is a bit of a protectionist, but not too much, and very knowledgeable on trade and technology issues.

Department of Labor. The unions will demand that Dick Gephardt be given this slot to protect their interests. Should he turn it down, labor economists Lawrence Katz or Harry Holzer are possibilities.

Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. Sarah Bianchi, Kerry’s top policy advisor, is a sure thing unless she desires something better.

Of course, these are all guesses and, being a Republican, I am not exactly plugged into the Democratic establishment. But all these people are highly competent, have solid records of support for the Democratic party, and, in most cases, served in the Clinton administration in lower-level positions. Given that the universe of people qualified for these positions is small, I would be very surprised if most of those I have mentioned didn’t end up in some senior capacity in a Kerry administration.

Although I won’t be voting for Kerry, I would feel a lot better about his potential for being a good president if I knew that men and women of the caliber I have listed were in fact going to occupy high-level positions. I think naming names would help Kerry win over a few fence sitters and aid his campaign.

– Bruce Bartlett is senior fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis. Write to him here.


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