Steven Chu, as the new Secretary of Energy.

More to say about the whys and wherefores later. For the moment: the ability of an incoming administration to select such people, and -- even trickier -- convince them it will be worth their while to move to Washington and wrestle with the most complicated politico / technical / diplomatic problems, given all the hassles and built-in frustrations and lack of privacy in governmental life, is both surprising and encouraging. Very good news.

Update: to flesh out a point made while I was rushing out the door earlier: obviously a Cabinet position is "a [bleeping] valuable thing," as the still-governor of Illinois might put it, and many people scheme and scramble for the offer. Also, I am not in the camp of people who feel very sorry for those who accept the "burden" of public service in high appointed office. It's a great challenge, a great opportunity, and a great thrill.

My point was that there are real trade-offs in public life: making all of your finances public, for example, or realizing that while you're in office everything you do or say is on the record and potentially embarrassing. Precisely the kind of person who is not actively scheming for the job, who already has a very good position (as Chu does), and who may give some weight to these personal tradeoffs, is the kind of person an administration may not manage to attract. When that person brings unusual eminence ot the job, as Chu does, then it's worth noting this achievement.