Part IV of a series on potential Romney cabinet appointments
Over the past week, we've been bringing you predictions about who could end up serving in a Mitt Romney administration. And now that the Republican National Convention is over, that question is becoming more and more live. Our last installment looked at the hyper-political departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor. This time, we look at two departments that not only shouldn't be political, but can yield disastrous results when they are politicized in the service of an agenda that may run contrary to their stated mission.
Those two departments are the Department of Energy, currently overseen by Secretary Steven Chu, and the Department of Homeland Security, currently overseen by Secretary Janet Napolitano. Both of these current leaders will provide an example to a potential President Romney. That is, both have been mired in controversy of a kind that Mitt Romney will almost certainly want to avoid. As
such, in looking at Romney's choices here, once more divided into the safe choice, the exciting choice and the wild card, one generally has to err on the side of Romney picking the "safe" choices, even at the expense of ideological perfection.
Secretary of Energy
The safe choice: Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute
Why? Where to start? Gerard is trusted by Romney, has been mentioned in connection with this job (this, or White House Chief of Staff), has a combination of a relatively low profile and sterling ideological bona fides, and arrives with a gold plated resume, both in terms of experience with government and management. He is an overwhelming favorite.
Why not? The only scenario in which Gerard does not get this job is if he becomes White House Chief of Staff. Otherwise, consider him a lock. His confirmation hearings might be contentious, given the American Petroleum Institute's relationship with the oil industry, but based on Romney's short list for this job, he's not afraid to spur controversy where it comes to energy.
The exciting choice: Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources
Why? If Gerard ends up White House Chief of Staff, look for Hamm to be the nominee. He is Romney's most trusted adviser on energy, one of the richest men in America thanks to his fortune accumulated in the oil industry, and someone with a long history of involvement in politics. As a down-the-line businessman without any apparent enemies in Washington, and plenty of lobbying firms he could bring to bear on his behalf, Hamm would have a relatively easy time clearing confirmation. He would also be an exciting nominee due to his unknown commodity status in Washington.
Why not? Gerard may be the pick, which would wipe Hamm out of contention. Beyond this, Hamm may not want to be get stuck in the bureaucratic tangle of a White House position, and his oil tycoon status could generate an image problem for the administration. He also lacks legislative experience.
The wild card: Rep. Joe Barton of Texas
Why? Like Gerard and Hamm, Barton has been mentioned in connection with this post. Unlike them, he is an old legislative hand on energy issues. He has chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and has had a hand in shepherding energy legislation to passage. He is a powerful voice on energy in the Republican house, and would be the most ideologically solid and legislatively experienced person Romney could pick.
Why not? Two words: British. Petroleum. Back when the Gulf Coast was reeling from the BP Oil Spill and British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward was getting dressed down in front of Congress, Barton not only declined to join in pressing Hayward to clean up his mess, but he apologized to Hayward for his treatment. Whether you think that apology was warranted or not, it would come up in confirmation hearings and be mocked to the ends of the earth.
Secretary of Homeland Security
The safe choice: Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State
Why? Kobach is one of Romney's closest Homeland Security advisers, and has a sterling record as an attorney and public official tackling immigration especially. In fact, so influential a figure is Kobach on immigration that many Leftist writers are already accusing him of being the man behind the curtain when it comes to Mitt Romney's stances on immigration. He is trusted by the nominee, has experience on an issue on which Romney will need to define himself, and is a relative unknown, making his confirmation less likely to draw unwanted press in its initial stages.
Why not? Kobach is only a state-level secretary of state, and Romney might decide he's too thin on experience to hold the job. His status as an anti-immigration crusader might also make the Romney team skittish.
The exciting choice: Governor Jan Brewer
Why? This choice would almost be poetic in its irony, given that Brewer's immediate predecessor, Janet Napolitano, currently holds the post. And for all the reasons Napolitano was considered a smart choice for President Obama to tap as the nominee, so too is Brewer a potentially smart choice for Romney. It doesn't hurt that she's emerged as one of the party's most pugnacious voices on immigration, and is considered a reliably ideological conservative on most other issues.
Why not? The confirmation hearings would be vicious, and Brewer would quickly become a lightning rod for criticism a la Napolitano. She might also be seen as too undisciplined.
The wild card: Senator Rand Paul
Why? This choice is admittedly unlikely, but something like it could happen if Romney makes the political calculation that Americans are sick of the TSA's brand of security theater, and Napolitano's brand of ideological enforcement, moreso than they are worried about illegal immigration. In those circumstances, Paul would send a signal that Romney is interested in effective enforcement, not theater.
Why not? Romney may not want to abandon security theater or immigration issues altogether, which Paul's aggressively libertarian views would all but force him to do.
BONUS: Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
The safe choice: Jeff Holmstead, lobbyist with Bracewell and Giuliani
Why? Holmstead has been one of Romney's advisers on energy policy for some time, and his former post as an official in charge of air quality at the EPA under President George W. Bush means he knows this department very, very well. Considering the EPA's recent decisions to treat global warming as an air quality issue, Holmstead's selection would send a signal that the Lisa Jackson era of unilateral and expansive interpretations of the Clean Air Act are over. His close relationship with the campaign makes him a likely choice.
Why not? Holmstead is loathed among anti-pollution advocates, and his selection could spur a very costly lobbying knife fight over his confirmation. He has said one or two things on issues like Mercury poisoning that could get in the way, as well.
The exciting choice: James Connaughton, environmental lawyer
Why? Connaughton has been mentioned in connection with the Energy Secretary position, but his past as an Environmental Adviser for former President George W. Bush arguably qualifies him more for this post. His experience in and out of senior cabinet positions at the White House would make him a strong confirmation prospect, and his relationships with members of Congress could be easily cashed in. Despite his relative lack of obvious ideological commitments, Connaughton's qualifications make him a very strong choice, and he would be likely to push whatever agenda the Romney administration finds most economically beneficial for the EPA to pursue.
Why not? Connaughton is arguably overqualified for the job. He could also be a surprise pick for Energy Secretary.
The wild card: Jim DiPeso, Policy Director for ConservAmerica
Why? DiPeso is probably the last person most people would expect to become a major cabinet official in the current Republican party. Despite being a Republican, DiPeso is a vocal skeptic of current GOP environmental dogma, and his organization withheld its endorsements from former President George W. Bush (though they did endorse Arizona Senator John McCain in 2008). Nevertheless, DiPeso would be a possible stealth pick that Romney could choose to give himself cover on environmental issues and gain some bipartisan goodwill. He's a powerful voice on environmental issues in the GOP and can't be ignored.
Why not? DiPeso would set off alarm bells with practically every major leader on environmental issues among the GOP in Congress. It's also unlikely that he'd take the job without some seriously questionable assurances from Romney on issues like climate change.
Next: Romney's potential picks for the highest fiscal office in the land and the highest legal enforcer in the land: Treasury Secretary and Attorney General.