Back at the start of September, during the Democratic National Convention, TheBlaze asked who President Obama might choose to replace in the event that he won a second term. At the time, we predicted that of Obama’s cabinet, two members would most likely choose to leave voluntarily (Hillary Clinton and Steven Chu), while two could very likely be fired (Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano).
So far, half of our predictions came true. Clinton has made it clear for some time that she plans to retire from the Secretary of State’s office for quite some time. Attorney General Eric Holder, however, has also announced his intention to retire, bringing the total number of vacant spots to two. Alongside Holder, there are also signs that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner might get the boot (a surprise, given our previous prediction that he would stay on), and those holding certain other positions might circulate out.
These three announced absences, plus the quite likely event that current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is likely to quit, leaves four highly important positions vacant for Obama to fill going into his second term. Below are our predictions for who the President probably will pick to fill those departments, as well as some equally strong contenders who – for the sake of a successful second term – he probably should pick.
Secretary of the Treasury
Who Obama will hire: Jack Lew, White House Chief of Staff.
Why? Lew is seen as the favorite, according to multiple sources, and would be a fairly safe consensus pick who would avoid any noisy confirmation battles. A former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Lew is an old hand at government bureaucracy, and his one liability (surprisingly) is not having an equally distinguished career in the private sector. Nevertheless, for a President who seems to be trying to put a new, bipartisan put forward, Lew is probably the safest pick, given that the Left is already sounding alarm bells about his softness on Wall Street.
Who Obama should pick: Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Why? In a move that may surprise the President’s critics, one of the White House’s chief aides has reportedly been looking for a Fortune 500 CEO to act as a potential candidate for Secretary of the Treasury. The people mentioned as being potential candidates are mostly from industries that backed the President throughout his first term, and include Facebook CEO Cheryl Sandberg, Tony James of the Blackstone Group and Eric Schmidt of Google. Of these three, Schmidt is the most likely to avoid questions over either his firm’s practices (Blackstone), or how profitable he’s managed to be (Facebook). On top of that, Google is an icon of the new information age economy, and the President could signal a newfound friendliness to at least some form of entrepreneurship by picking Schmidt.
Secretary of State
Who Obama will pick: Susan Rice, Ambassador to the United Nations
Why? Politico has caught this one. Reportedly, despite the very real possibility of noisy confirmation battles over the Benghazi scandal, Obama will attempt to push Rice through the confirmation process anyway. Given that the Democrats expanded their lead in the Senate, this looks easier for him to do, and despite Rice’s thorny relationship with current Secretary of Statte Hillary Rodham Clinton, she looks likely to survive.
Who Obama should pick: Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry
Why? Because he’s the only other person with a shot at it, and unlike Susan Rice, has no major scandal to his name. Kerry has also shown signs of being more hawkish, or at least less reflexively anti-American than his fellow Democrats, and is an experienced old hand at foreign policy, given his status as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry also has personal relationships with many world leaders who Obama would need to negotiate with – a good counterpoint to the President’s infamous inability to connect.
Secretary of Defense
Who Obama will pick: Ash Carter, Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Why? Obama’s picks for the Secretary of Defense position have been relatively low-key, with an emphasis on competence over ideology. Carter, who already stands second in line to take the job from current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, is relatively unlikely to ruffle any feathers, and almost certainly would maintain a steady hand at Defense. His scientific background and mathematical prowess also mean that in the event that sequestration is not avoided, he could conceivably find a way to keep the cuts to America’s military as strategic as possible and minimize the damage they might inflict.
Who Obama should pick: Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Why? Hagel is a bipartisan pick, having been one of the GOP’s more dovish foreign policy thinkers during the Bush administration, and would probably breeze past a confirmation hearing. His background, unlike Carter’s, is more diverse and would enable Obama to avoid the trap of keeping too many career bureaucrats in Washington, especially at a time when both parties seem dissatisfied with the dominant approach to military power in Washington. He’s already on the short list, and with good reason, though newly elected Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer might have one or two reasons to complain if he’s nominated. He endorsed her opponent in the last election.
Who Obama will hire: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
Why? Patrick gave what was widely seen as a barn-burner speech at the Democratic National Convention, and is reportedly coveted by the administration for a potential second term cabinet position. Given his previous tenure at the Clinton Justice Department, and his executive experience as governor of a state, Patrick can probably get this job if he wants it, and would certainly retain some of the spirit of previous Attorney General Eric Holder without (as of yet) being tainted by scandal or radicalism. One warning: Look for a reinvigorated Civil Rights division if Patrick is chosen.
Why? This is admittedly a long shot, but Crist is certainly qualified. He comes from a background as a state Attorney General, and similarly to Patrick, he gave a well-received speech at the Democratic National Convention this year. However, unlike Patrick, his record is more moderate, and as a former Republican, he could possibly attract some crossover votes in the Senate. Crist’s focus during his time as Florida’s Attorney General centered on stopping human trafficking of children, a noble and underreported area of legal enforcement, and this would be an interesting new priority for the Obama administration to pursue.
Honorable Mention: Secretary of Business
Who Obama will pick: Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochberg
Why? Assuming Obama wasn’t lying when he said he wanted to create this cabinet position (and even if he was, these predictions could work just as well for Secretary of Commerce), Hochberg brings a couple of qualities that the President might prize – a long history of service and loyalty, and a slight token status. Hochberg, aside from his impressive career in Government service, is also openly gay, a strong credential for an administration that increasingly goes out of its way to demonstrate friendliness to the gay and lesbian community. His one disadvantage, especially if he is nominated to be Secretary of Business, is that he has no experience in a for-profit business.
Who Obama should pick: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
Why? Yes, there is buzz for this, and from the most unlikely of places. Specifically, both MSNBC host Toure and Rush Limbaugh have said they want to see Romney become part of Obama’s administration in this capacity. While the odds of Romney taking the job are admittedly very small, it’s not impossible to see Obama (who’s already said he wants to work with Romney) offering it to him, if only to disarm a former formidable opponent. However, given the odds that such a position would transform Romney into a fall guy for Obama’s relatively anti-business administration, it might be unwise for him to take such a job if it’s offered.