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Home / Articles / News / Features /  The Dream Team
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The Dream Team

Ideal picks for Obama’s administration

November 11, 2008, 12:00 am
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Barack Obama’s victory in last week’s election was celebrated around the world. But within 24 hours, the speculation began regarding who the heavyweights of Obama’s administration will be. (In New Mexico, those questions hit close to home: Will Gov. Bill Richardson be tapped for secretary of state? Will US Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, become the next energy secretary?)

But even before the polls had closed, Foreign Policy Magazine had asked 10 big thinkers from around the world to put together their dream cabinets for the next administration.

The magazine notes: “The next American president will confront a host of potential cataclysms: from a virulent financial crisis to a vicious terrorist enemy, nuclear proliferation to climate change. He’ll need his country’s brightest minds—not his party’s usual suspects.”

This week, SFR's print edition presents Foreign Policy’s roundup of picks for a dream team to guide the United States for next four years. Additionally, post-election, we asked some big New Mexico thinkers to weigh in on who they would choose for Obama’s administration.

Many of the locals’ picks have a decidedly western bent to them. Well, why not? As executive director of Think New Mexico Fred Nathan writes: “The conventional wisdom is that every president should have a geographically diverse cabinet. My dream cabinet, however, would be overpopulated with Westerners since this is where most of the most creative and innovative thinking on public policy is taking place. By converting New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada from red to blue, Obama captured the presidency. Mining the West’s brainpower would help to ensure that those states stay blue and also ensure his re-election.”

And it would sure make things interesting. Do you have ideas for Obama’s dream team? Send them to: email them or post them as comments to the complete local lowdown on cabinet picks offered below.

Local thinkers add their picks for Obama’s dream team:

Jim Baca is the former mayor of Albuquerque, a former state land commissioner and served as the director of the bureau of land management in the Interior Department under the Clinton administration. He currently is a New Mexico Natural Resource Trustee.

Here are my suggestions for some cabinet appointments. However I must say that many times the Assistant Secretaries and bureau chiefs are just as important in that they are the ones who advise the Secretaries and then make the policies happen.

Secretary of the Interior: Molly Mcusic, President of the Wyss Foundation
She is a former Interior Department Official under Clinton. She has been running a foundation that funds groups all over the west to protect public lands, watersheds, species and wilderness. She should work on moving the Forest Service from the Agriculture Department to the Interior Department.

Secretary of the EPA: Ron Curry-Environment Secretary for New Mexico
A long shot, but no one has better demonstrated an ability to stand up to polluters in the West. He is courageous and does the right thing.

Bill RichardsonSecretary of State:  New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson 
Gov. Richardson has a certain disarming quality about him when dealing with other countries. He is affable and informed and would insist on diplomacy over bombs. A breath of fresh air. (He would also make an incredible Interior Secretary.)

Secretary of Energy: Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association
Resch needs to bring the common sense of renewables to the nation’s Energy Department. There is no better way to send a message to the ‘Lords of Yesterday” in the oil and gas community than having someone pushing aside their influence in favor of clean energy. He should attempt to move all nuclear related issues to a new department.

Karen Heldmeyer is a former Santa Fe city councilor.
I notice that my bias is for smart, results-oriented people who can combine practical experience with a research-based approach to problems.

Secretary of the Treasury:  Paul Volcker 
What the country needs now in this position is someone who can be trusted by everyone, and Volcker is extremely well regarded by both sides of the aisle.  There are any number of others who could serve as his deputy secretaries (like Timothy Geithner or Laura Tyson), and when Volcker steps down after the current crisis has abated, any one of them will have the experience to move up.  Not Larry Summers (who 52% of the public doesn't trust).

Attorney General: Elena Kagan
Dean of the Harvard Law School and a scholar with practical experience (she was a deputy counsel under Clinton), Kagen her area of research is the role of the president in formulating and influencing federal administrative and regulatory law.  Perfect fit, especially after the excesses of the last administration.

Secretary of Labor:  Andrew Stern
Stern has grown the Service Employees International Union to the largest union in the country by a combination of sheer hustle, a disdain for orthodoxy, and outreach to underrepresented groups

Secretary of Education:  Jonathan Kozol  
A long-time critic of public education in this country, Kozol has most recently been working with teachers' unions to tame the excesses of No Child Left Behind.  Let's see how he would improve the educational system if given a chance.

Veterans Affairs: Tammy Duckworth 
She currently holds this position in Illinois, where she has  done a tremendous job, increasing veterans services. requiring all wounded veterans to be screened for PTSD and closed-head brain injuries, and offering incentives to employers who hire veterans.  She could do the same nationally and serve as a great role model for Iraq war vets, wounded vets, and women vets (who are currently woefully underserved by this department).


Carol Miller was an Independent candidate for Congress in the 2008 election and founder and executive director of founder and current Executive Director of the National Center for Frontier Communities

Supreme Court: Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights
One of the clearest thinking and most outspoken attorneys for constitutional law and protecting human rights. Ratner has been a leading voice against US torture policies, racial profiling and for closing the prison camp at Guantanamo. Ratner's recent book The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld lays out the legal brief for violations of international and US law surrounding the war in Iraq.

Treasury sealSecretary of the Treasury: Peter Edelman
Edelman is a dedicated fighter for social and economic equality in the United State. Edelman will assure that bailouts and changes to the financial system provide trickle up economics reducing poverty and the economic crisis facing individuals and families, not the rich and super rich who caused the problems. He has demonstrated very high ethical beliefs, quitting the Clinton Administration over the cruel changes to the welfare system. These changes have increased suffering for poor people and the newly poor, formerly middle class. Edelman's first executive order should be putting the word "poverty" back into the mouths of Democrats.

Secretary of Peace: US Rep. Dennis Kucinich
Rather than adding a new cabinet department for peace, which could lead to Orwellian doublespeak as in "war is peace," the Department of Defense will be converted into a Department of Peace. Diplomatic negotiations and humanitarian aid will be guided by the Department of Peace. Military conversion will create new jobs providing benefits to society in the US and around the world. Solar panels and wind turbines instead of bombs and bombers. Electric cars charged by solar and wind power. Environmental restoration of military installations, among the most polluted and polluting in the world.

Attorney General: Ralph Nader
Set Ralph free to fight corporate crime and restore the rule of law in the United States. Hold corporations and government accountable. End the failed War on Drugs and the incarceration of millions for crimes of poverty and addictions. Return the public airwaves to public control. Restore the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.

Secretary of Health: Oliver Fein, MD: Dean Cornell Medical School and President-Elect Physicians for a National Health Program
Dr. Fein will guide the transition to a world class universal healthcare system with wisdom and a strong commitment to public health. He is a true leader who has never compromised his values and will guarantee equal access to all.

Secretary of Telling the Truth and Working Together: Louis LaRose, professional mediator, Winnebago Nation (Former Chairman), Inter-Tribal Bison Cooperative, and storyteller
This new post is designed to lend substance and make progress towards ending toxic partisanship. Party labels serve primarily to bloat campaign spending to billions of dollars per election. Using humor, LaRose brings people together to focus on the important issues. (Disclaimer, LaRose is a Board member of the National Center for Frontier Communities.)

Court Jesters: The Regressives.
Regressives are people who call themselves progressives despite no progress being made for decades. Capable of rationalizing consistently irrational voting patterns. Nationally known nominees would be a huge group but must include the editor and staff of The Nation, Jim Hightower, Tom Hayden, Bob Scheer, and Amy Goodman.

Fred Nathan is Executive Director of Think New Mexico, a results-oriented think tank serving New Mexicans.

The conventional wisdom is that every president should have a geographically diverse cabinet. My dream cabinet, however, would be overpopulated with Westerners since this is where most of the most creative and innovative thinking on public policy is taking place. By converting New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada from red to blue, Obama captured the presidency. Mining the West's brain power would help to insure that those states stay blue and also insure his re-election.

Secretary of Commerce: Paul Hawken
Hawken leads the Natural Capital Institute in Sausalito, California and is himself an entrepreneur who founded the Smith and Hawken garden supply company and one of the leaders in the movement to create more "green collar" jobs in America. Hawken is also the author of The Next Economy, The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution.

Secretary of Education: Joel Klein
Superintendent of the New York City Public Schools. Klein, an anti-trust lawyer (ideal training for understanding the public schools) has been leading a miraculous turnaround of New York's schools by moving power and resources out of the central administrative offices and to the school sites where the actual learning takes place. He was one of the first superintendents in the nation to focus on smaller schools and small learning communities as a way to increase graduation rates and student achievement, especially among low-income kids.  

Energy sealSecretary of Energy: Amory Lovins
Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Lovins has been doing path breaking work on renewable energy and energy efficiency since the 1970s and has even designed an ultra efficient auto, "the hypercar." During his career, Lovins has briefed 19 heads of state on energy policy and is the best person on the planet to set a new direction for US energy policy.

Secretary of Indian Affairs: LaDonna Harris
Harris is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation and Chairman of the Board and Founder of  Americans for Indian Opportunity. Currently, there is no cabinet level agency for Indian affairs, but Obama has pledged to create one during the campaign to replace the dysfunctional Bureau of Indian Affairs. LaDonna, a leader in the effort to return the Taos Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo and a pioneer in so many ways, would be an ideal fit for this job.   

Secretary of Interior: Stewart Udall
Obama seems to seek out every opportunity to attach himself to Camelot and the legacy of President John F. Kennedy so who better to add to his cabinet than one of the last surviving members of Camelot and Kennedy's cabinet? Udall is, of course, well qualified for the post having served as Interior Secretary from 1961-1969 and having revolutionized the office by being the leading advocate for the passage of several landmark environmental protection laws. This time around he will have his son, US Sen. Tom Udall, and his nephew, US Sen. Mark Udall, to help him. 

Secretary of State: Bill Richardson
In its foggy bottom wisdom, the State Department has been aggressively ignoring Latin America forever…to our nation's peril. Richardson, a former UN ambassador and international troubleshooter, would immediately reverse that and would also bring his demanding, results-oriented approach to a bureacracy in desparate need of new leadership and a thorough housecleaning. 

John McCainDirector, Office of Management and Budget: John McCain
McCain has been a lonely and courageous  voice in the Congress against earmarking and  pork barrel spending. Now that the nation is close to being $10 trillion in debt, it is time for some adult supervision when it comes to the nation's budget and checking  account. Obama has said he wants his cabinet to be bipartisan.

Liz Stefanics is a former New Mexico state legislator and will begin serving as an elected county commission for Santa Fe in January.

I do not believe that the US Congress and Senate should be raided or robbed of its leadership and skill. We still need these individuals to lead for the country along with the President. Some individuals outside of New Mexico:

Veteran's Affairs: Patricia Shroeder
Shroeder has a mature understanding of our armed forces and will offer support and respect for our veterans.

Health and Human Services: Howard Dean
Serves as a motivator and change agent while watching out for the masses.

Attorney General: Janet Napolitano
A leader not only in her state but the southwest and among Democrat governors, has handled immigration issues in a humane and compassionate manner.

Hillary ClintonSupreme Court: Hillary Clinton
The strong woman's voice with experience that would lead the Court out of a conservative mode.

Housing and Urban Development: US Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC.
Norton is an established and often overlooked leader who could address homelessness, housing crises, and inner city development.

National Endowment for the Arts: Caroline Kennedy
Family upbringing and connections could bring in large private donations as well as lending a poised social presence

Secretary of Education: Colin Powell
As seen in his career, Powell will speak for his belief even if overridden and would be a good role model throughout the education system.

Many individuals from NM have great talents—a few to consider:

State sealSecretary of State: Gov. Bill Richardson
Richardson has the ability to state goals immediately and negotiate to a success, can remain neutral and objective with other countries until pushed to the decision.

Higher Education or Multicultural Education: Mari-Luci Jaramillo, author and former US ambassador to Honduras.
Jaramillo has higher education experience in New Mexico and Latin America and is highly esteemed by her colleagues.

Environmental Protection Agency or Department of Interior: New Mexico Attorney General Gary King
King is an astute attorney with an eye to the environment, well thought out judgment and opinions.

Surgeon General: Justina Trott
Known to us as the founder and director of Women's Health Services, Trott is nationally known for women's health research and currently is a legislative fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.??

Susan Tarman is co-coordinator Amnesty International Group 122

Secretary of State: Hilary Clinton
She not only has the smarts and experience, but she is known to and has the respect of the world's leaders.

Secretary of the Treasury: Sheila Bair
Chairman of the FDIC, Bair is a non-radical official with impeccable establishment credentials (the Dept. of the Treasury, NY Stock Exchange to name just two) who truly grasps and is not intimidated by the crisis.  Her educational writings on money and finance for children and professional achievement are models for the direction this administration is headed.

Secretary of Defense: Sarah Chayes
Ex-journalist, brilliant, has been on the ground in Kandahar Afghanistan, speaks Pashtun and knows many of the players personally. She understands the issues in the region to help achieve resolution. With Ms. Chayes at the helm we will begin to balance our Dept. of Defense with equal parts military might and diplomacy.

Attorney General: Susan Herman
Herman is Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and an expert on the Supreme Court, specializing in criminal procedure. She has authored review articles and seminars on the USA Patriot Act, terrorism and civil liberties and federalism. She will do much to get us back on track with our policies on torture, close Guantanamo and rescind the Military Commissions Act (which will shamefully enjoy its second anniversary this month). 

 

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