The Shadow Knows


On Tuesday, I wrote that "at some point in the next couple of months someone needs to write the inevitable column calling on Obama and/or McCain to name a 'shadow cabinet.'" In doing so, I failed to appreciate the marvels of internet time. Thus Tom Schaller blogs "now that Barack Obama has won the nomination, my initial reflex is that he ought to choose quickly—not rashly, of course, just quickly—and build a shadow cabinet of sort outward from there."

Now nobody genuinely offers a shadow cabinet when running for election, but one could imagine Obama doing something like what Bush did in 2000 when he made it pretty clear in advance that Colin Powell was going to be his Secretary of State. Of course here in 2008 there's no figure of Powell-like popularity to anoint. What's more, that served a very specific purpose of trying to (falsely) reassure people that the inexperienced Bush would pursue a calm, modest, moderate course in foreign policy. Normally, I think it's more advantageous to a politician to stay vague. The list of plausible Obama Secretaries of State and Defense has a lot of overlap with the list of people who might plausibly be quoted on TV and in the newspapers talking about the Obama foreign policy. You want, as much as possible, all of those people to be thinking to themselves "if I'm as helpful to Obama as possible, then maybe he'll pick me!" You want all the wannabes wanting to be as strongly as possible.

But for McCain this is a more interesting proposition. My assumption when Al Gore was running was that there would be a lot of overlap between the Gore cabinet circa 2001 and the Clinton cabinet circa 2000. Some people would leave, of course, as is always the case during an administration, but you could easily imagine some people staying on in their jobs and also many instances of things like Assistant Secretaries becoming Undersecretaries and Undersecretaries taking over as Secretaries.

But what about John McCain? We know he's truly, madly, deeply in love with Bush's choice to head up CENTCOM, General David Petraeus, but what about other Bush appointees? Will William Luti, formerly a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense and currently a Special Assistant to the President have a role in a McCain administration? Will Zalmay Khalilzad? Ryan Crocker? The question of whether or not a McCain administration would amount to a third Bush term has gotten a lot of play lately. Some clearer indication from McCain of how he intends to staff his administration, and what he intends to do with the hundreds of current Republican political appointees in office would shed some light on all that. Will he fire the overwhelming majority of them the way a Democrat would, or will he keep the majority on the way Bush would in a third term?

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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