Monday, May 3, 2010

Cabinet Appointment Counter-factuals

Yglesias quoting Neil Sinhababu,

He may not be the first person to blame, but Barack Obama deserves some criticism for letting the Arizona immigration law befall us. If he had left Janet Napolitano as Arizona governor instead of putting her in charge of Homeland Security, there’s no way this law would’ve passed. Instead, Jan Brewer took office, signed it, and is now saying that her state is under terrorist attack from illegal immigrants.

Additionally, we could’ve had Napolitano as a Senate candidate. How that would’ve affected John McCain’s votes over the past year and the 2010 Senate outlook is left as an exercise for the reader. The smart thing would’ve been to have somebody else do Homeland Security with the understanding that they might be asked to step out in two years, and that the Cabinet job would be Janet’s then if she put in a good showing but lost her Senate race. Similar things apply, mutatis mutandis, to Kathleen Sebelius at HHS and Tom Vilsack at Agriculture. (Emphasis Yglesias)

Does anyone find this argument convincing? I certainly don't. The entire argument is based on an assumption that the world would be exactly the same as it is today if Napolitano had stayed in Arizona. That's a huge assumption to make and one that calls into question any conclusion that allegedly flows from the assumption.

Now I'm sounding like a philosophy student (and Neil is an actual philosophy professor) but I just think the entire argument is fatally flawed.

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