Jonathan Bernstein asks a weekly question of liberals and conservatives. I'm going to try and answer him as best as I can most weeks. Here is his question for today,
Obama's cabinet: who are the winners so far? Losers? Who do you hope will move up to a bigger job? Who do you hope will disappear and never be heard from again? Biggest disappointment? Biggest (positive) surprise?
Really interesting question. I am not going to have something to say on each Cabinet member but here is where I see a few of them...
1. Hilary Clinton. Arguably she had the biggest job starting on Day 1, maybe you put Tim Geithner ahead of her. Regardless, she was charged with fixing State after the George W. Bush administration and restoring some sense of America's honor around the globe. I think she has done a solid job in the face of numerous international crisis as well.
2. Hilda Solis. She has given DOL a new direction and new life. Much like Eric Holder and his revitalization of the Civil Rights Division, Solis' has brought new energy and focus to long dormant agencies which protect worker safety. The West Virginia mining disaster helped remind us all just how important these agencies really are.
Here is a great profile of Solis from The Nation from a year ago.
1. Tim Geithner. Given his tax issues he's lacked credibility from day one. He projects all of the aura of charisma of a flacid penis. And his role within the cabinet appeared to be on the level of Larry Summers pool boy. The economy has stabilized somewhat but Geithner is widely reviled in the public for all of the above named reasons and then some. People hate him so much that they just assume he used to work at Goldman Sachs - he's not.
Good piece from The Atlantic from April, 2010 on Tim Geithner.
2. Ken Salazar. After the debacle in Louisiana and the related Minerals Management Service screw-up (wherein Salazar utterly and inexplicably failed to implement reforms of a known corrupt high-profile agency until BP helped push it to the front-page - again) I really can't believe he still has his job. I really did not like him as my Senator but I felt that Interior would be a good fit for him given his background. But Salazar has failed and failed publicly, his image is forever tarnished.
Want to Make Him a Winner but...
Eric Holder. As terrible as John Ashcroft was (and I am from Missouri, so I am well aware of the depths of his depravity) the reign of Alberto Gonzalez is just an utter embarrassment. So Holder had quite a crater to pull the DOJ out of and I think on many, many fronts he has. The Civil Rights division in particular has been utterly resurrected. But then there are the civil liberties issues as most recently highlighted by the Bradley Manning fiasco. My gut tells me (or possibly it is just a naive hope) that Holder's heart isn't into it and that the White House is driving these decisions but nonetheless Holder is out front defending them. So I can't make him a winner, but I also have a hard time labeling the man a loser too - he most decidedly is not.
I highly recommend this GQ piece from last year on Holder, it cuts to the heart of the internal conflict which Holder is facing.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
Ray LaHood. The guy is on my television twice a week. I'm not really sure what he does besides prepare for, then give, then de-brief from press conferences. He seemed to pursue Toyota vigorously (though plaintiff's attorneys are gunning for the Toyota-exonerating NHTSA report) but his anti-texting zealotry reminds me of C. Everett Koop. Not that he's wrong mind you, just that I'm not used to seeing a Secretary of Transportation taking such a public stance on anything. Where any of them like this over seat-belts or airbags back in the 70's and 80's?