Include some Democrats

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(Host) As President Bush assembles his second term staff and cabinet, commentator Olin Robison suggests some candidates who are probably not already on the list.

(Robison) Changes in the President’s team are already underway. It is all perfectly normal and to be expected. Few Democrats will lament the early departure of John Ashcroft as Attorney General — so there is something for everyone.

The President says that he wants to reach out, to be inclusive, to serve all Americans.

One way to do that, indeed a way with many precedents, would be to bring a few Democrats into his Cabinet; and to that end I have a few suggestions.

On the questionable assumption that both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may now find civilian life attractive, the President has a terrific opportunity to do the right thing, especially in the foreign affairs area.

He could reach into the Senate and choose two from his own party — perhaps John McCain for Defense and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar for Secretary of State. But that probably won’t happen for a host of reasons, the most basic of which is that either or both men might well say no. Besides, their absence from the Senate would run the risk of diminishing the Republican’s majority in that chamber.

So, Mr. President, how about a Democrat as Secretary of Defense? How about former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee? He is highly knowledgeable, widely respected, and is completely non-threatening to today’s Republican order. It would be very much like Bill Clinton in his second term, when he appointed the Republican Senator from Maine, Bill Cohen, to that very same job.

And, Mr. President, how about Bill Bradley for Secretary of Commerce? Wouldn’t that be a good idea? A former senator, and, like Senator Lugar previously mentioned, a Rhodes Scholar, and then a NBA Hall of Famer.

Or, Mr. President, should you want to be really bold, why not ask Bill Clinton to be your Special Envoy to the Middle East? If he is successful, you will get the credit, and if it fails, well, it would be easy to place the blame on him.

There are so many possibilities here. How about a Democrat as your lead negotiator with the North Koreans maybe Madeleine Albright?

And, Mr. President, even as a few such choices would make you look really inclusive in choosing your team, it would actually be quite easy for you to fire any of them.

Frankly, it could be structured and done in such a way as to be a no-lose proposition for you.

Now, truth in advertising: I haven’t checked with any of these people, nor with Karl Rove, who will no doubt have opinions. And my influence in the current administration is not particularly noteworthy. But the ideas are no less worthy for that. So, dear listeners, if you are a Republican and you are so inclined, please pass it on.

This is Olin Robison.

Olin Robison is president of the Salzburg Seminar, located in Middlebury, Vermont and Salzburg, Austria

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