Cabinet and other key appointments Obama shouldn't make.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Nov. 5 2008 6:49 PM

The Uncabinet

A guide to key appointments Obama should resist.

(Continued from Page 1)

Environmental Protection Agency or Interior Department. Do not hire Robert Kennedy Jr. He's too partisan and kind of a nut when it comes to policy. Check out this dangerously alarmist 2005 Rolling Stone piece about the purported link between autism and childhood vaccines. (To learn why Kennedy's piece was alarmist, see "Sticking Up for Thimerosal" by Arthur Allen in Slate, August 2005.) Throw in Kennedy's 1983 heroin bust, and you've got yourself an unconfirmable nominee.

Defense Department. Do not reappoint Robert Gates. Joe Klein floated this idea in a June Time magazine column inspired by Doris Goodwin's Team of Rivals, which shows how Abraham Lincoln co-opted his political enemies by appointing them to his Cabinet. The trouble with Klein's thinking is that it's all about politics and only vaguely about Gates himself, who gets good press mainly because he had the fantastic luck to succeed a disastrously bad defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Nancy Soderberg, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Clinton, and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress, a liberal nonprofit, made a more substantive case last month in the Washington Post, arguing for Gates because he's not an ideologue and because he favors shoring up failing states before they become havens for terrorists. But it still adds up to "he's not as bad as those other blowhard Bushies." I think that's setting the bar way too low. Plus, I was never really satisfied that Gates came clean about his role in the Iran-Contra scandal.


Attorney General. Do not appoint Jamie Gorelick. It pains me to write this partly because I know and like Gorelick and mostly because by all accounts she performed brilliantly as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. But her subsequent hiring as vice chair at Fannie Mae, despite her lack of any background in finance, and most especially the $26.4 million she received in total compensation over a period of six years disqualify her for public office. As Jack Shafer has noted in Slate, Fannie Mae was a bipartisan trough for the politically connected, but the patronage and executive pay were particularly lavish under James Johnson, a Democrat who ran Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign. (See "A Medici With Your Money" by Matthew Cooper, February 1997.) Gorelick needs a few more years of good works (the 9/11 commission was a good start) to rehabilitate herself.

It goes without saying—but I'll say it anyway—that Obama should avoid hiring Johnson for any position. Obama probably learned that lesson during the campaign when he made the mistake of briefly putting Johnson in charge of his vice-presidential search. He should avoid Franklin Raines, Johnson's successor, for the same reason.

Vice President. Not Joe Biden.



Then just make sure he keeps a low profile.

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Oct. 23 2014 11:51 AM It Seems No One Is Rich or Happy: I Looked
The Vault
Oct. 23 2014 12:02 PM Delightfully Awkward Studio Action Shots of Players, Used on Early Baseball Cards
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 12:01 PM Who Is Constantine, and Should You Watch His New Show?
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.