Party Favor
12-18-2008
Is Secretary of Transportation becoming the official placeholder Cabinet post for a member of the opposition party in a new presidential administration? President Bush appointed Democratic Congressman Norman Mineta of California to the position in 2001. Mineta turned out to be the only member of the opposition party to serve in President Bush’s Cabinet. Now Barack Obama is poised to appoint retiring Republican Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois to the same position. If we go with the operating assumption that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is also a Republican, which he sort of confirmed at a press conference earlier this month, then Obama doubles Bush’s party favor to two Republicans in his Cabinet.
 
I am tempted to argue that both Bush and Obama chose the Transportation Department as a fairly safe political sinecure for stashing a largely symbolic “bipartisan” appointment to their administrations, although Obama's appointment of Gates argues against pure symbolism. After all, how frequently did we hear from Norman Mineta during his more than five years in the position (a record for that executive department)? But if the massive ($775 billion to perhaps $1 trillion) fiscal stimulus package Obama is rumored to be preparing channels a lot of federal dollars to the states for transportation infrastructure improvements, then the position may enjoy a bit more cachet than it has in the past, and even come to play an integral role in the country's economic recovery.

Comments:


Posted On: 12-19-2008 08:15:05 by Jim Splaine
Good observations. I don't think the appointment of anyone to a Cabinet position is symbolism. It's too important for that. Fact is, there are excellent and competent Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and members of all races who make fantastic choices to positions of importance. I always find it fascinating to see our obsession with "firsts." Eventually we'll have the "first" African-American Vice President, the "first" openly-gay Secretary of State, the "first" woman Chief of Staff, the "first" really overweight Chair of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff. The media likes to go crazy with firsts. It will be good when we look at how we are the same, rather than different, without losing focus that our differetness is what makes like interesting for all of us. I think Barack Obama is trying to find the best people to work with him. But if he's looking for the "first" openly-gay funny-looking short-and-fat over-60ish White House Press Secretary, he could call me.


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