Part V of a series on Romney’s potential cabinet appointments.
Over the past two weeks, we have looked at a President Romney’s potential cabinet appointments, and undertaken the difficult task of reading the tea leaves, sorting the chaff from the wheat, and naming potential rising stars. Now as this process draws to a close, we take a look at the superstar cabinet positions that usually are filled by close presidential confidantes.
With this entry, we take a look at the highest legal enforcer in the land and the position with the most powerful fiscal authority (with the possible exception of the Federal Reserve Chairman): The attorney general and the treasury secretary.
The people chosen for these positions will have the advantage of coming into office with relatively low expectations on the personal level. The treasury secretary essentially needs to prove he can file his taxes correctly in order to exceed the record of Timothy Geithner, and the attorney general needs to avoid any serious scandals. However, it is likely that Mitt Romney will look for people with further qualifications than that. He will probably draw these people from within the ranks of his closest advisers, and to that end, we have constrained ourselves mostly to Romney’s inner circle in selecting candidates.
Though typically, the candidates have been broken down according to whether they are “Safe choices,” “Exciting choices” and “Wild Cards,” in this case, those distinctions frequently only exist by a hair. The odds of Romney picking a genuine wild card for Attorney General are likely minuscule, and the odds of him picking an unknown commodity for Treasury Secretary are even lower. As such, there is not a single candidate on either of these lists who is not a “safe choice,” however they might be qualified. The only question is, how safe?
The safe choice: Richard Wiley, partner at Wiley-Rein
Why? Wiley is a co-chair of Romney’s Justice Advisory Committee, and a Washington veteran on most legal issues. With a distinguished legal career as a corporate attorney that has allowed him to represent companies such as Verizon and JP Morgan, Wiley has the sort of pro-corporate, Washington insider resume that Romney would probably look for in selecting an attorney general. As an executive at his law firm, Wiley also has the executive management bona fides that Romney is known to prefer among his closest advisers. He also has a relatively noncontroversial Washington legal career, focusing mostly on issues related to information technology, rather than something more controversial.
Why not? Wiley has not served in the Justice Department, and his area of expertise is not a major area of controversy for the Justice Department. Romney might opt for someone more outspoken, and more experienced with policy wars.
The exciting choice: Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law School Professor
Why? Glendon is another co-chair of Romney’s Justice Advisory Committee, and unlike Wiley, her experience is deeply relevant to current controversies. Specifically, Glendon is an aggressive defender of religious freedom, and has served as United States Ambassador to the Holy See (IE the Vatican). Her experience as a Harvard academic puts her comfortably in the judicial “monastery” that usually supplies appointments like this.
Why not? Glendon is only an academic, and has also not served in the Justice Department. This means she has scant management experience, and is a relatively unknown commodity in Washington. Romney might save her for a Supreme Court nomination.
The wild card: Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey
Why? Christie might be known as a scourge of teachers’ unions today, but he has a distinguished record as a prosecutor, and unlike the other people on this list, he has served as a US attorney for the District of Columbia. His closeness with Romney is well-documented, and his executive mettle is proven. He would be a celebrity appointment, but a justified one.
Why not? Christie might not want to leave New Jersey, and Romney could make the executive decision that Christie is more useful as an education secretary than in this post.
Secretary of the Treasury
The safe choice: Mike Leavitt
Why? Leavitt is considered a lock for one of the top White House positions, with this and White House chief of staff being his two main potential appointments. Given that Leavitt is apparently drafting the list of people Romney ought to appoint, it’s entirely up to him whether he’ll want this job or the chief’s position, but as the former head of two cabinet departments, and one of Romney’s closest advisers, if he wants this job, it’s his.
Why not? He might want to be White House chief of staff. Beyond that, there is no reason he won’t be nominated for this position if he wants it.
The exciting choice: Rob Portman, Senator from Ohio
Why? The difficulty of picking someone to hold this position is that both the president and vice president would themselves be strong contenders to hold it. Portman was on the short list to be Romney’s vice president at one point, and is known to have a cordial relationship with the candidate, suggesting that they would have minimal bureaucratic skirmishes. His name has been mentioned in connection with this position, and he has the resume for it. He is a former Office of Management and Budget director for President George W. Bush, a major voice on fiscal issues in the U.S. Senate, and a popular figure back in Ohio. Nominating him would also allow Ohio Governor John Kasich to create a new incumbent.
Why not? Portman’s background as a Bush appointee could taint him in the eyes of Romney’s advisers. His lack of executive experience in the private sector could also hurt him.
The wild card: Glenn Hubbard, Dean of Columbia Business School
Why? Hubbard’s name has also been mentioned in connection with his job, though he’s also being considered for Federal Reserve chairman. He’s a major Romney adviser on economic issues, though unlike Portman, his background is more academic than practical. With that said, he used to chair the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, so his Washington experience isn’t negligible, and as an executive at a school quite literally devoted to teaching people to run their businesses well, he would be a steady hand at this job. He also lacks Portman’s paper trail, and would be an easier confirmation.
Why not? Like Portman, the Bush connection might hurt him, and his academic background might be seen as too theoretical for Romney’s business-oriented administration.
Next time: The final entry in this series, covering the two most powerful foreign policy-oriented positions in America: The Secretaries of Defense and State, along with a potential fiscal bonus.