Why you should care
Because they could be running the country soon enough.
Being a fly on Hillary Clinton’s wall today wouldn’t be enough, those in the know insist, to get a full rundown of who could fill the higher rungs of her government if she wins the presidency. “That would be getting ahead of ourselves,” one top-ranking member of the Clinton camp told OZY before noting that the former secretary of state will consider both the experience and intellectual, racial and cultural diversity of candidates when forming her team.
Yet Clinton’s transition efforts are well underway — through a team led by chairman Ken Salazar, who was President Barack Obama’s first interior secretary, along with former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm and Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, among others. While they’re keeping mum for now, OZY’s analysis following interviews with staffers and strategists has the presidential candidate turning out close to a gender-neutral cabinet.
Clinton tonight on MSNBC: "I am going to have a cabinet that looks like America, and 50 percent of America is women, right?”
— Sam Stein (@samstein) April 26, 2016
Where She’ll Play It Safe
After Obama won the primary in 2008, the U.S. senator turned to an experienced hand to co-chair his transition team: John Podesta, who was Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff and is now Hillary’s campaign chairman. In the weeks following President Obama’s win, 31 of his 47 transition team members had ties to Bill’s administration, according to the BBC. When it comes to Hillary’s transition, “you’re going to have a mirror image of what happened then,” says Mark Alderman, an early Obama bundler who was part of the ’08 transition team.
This time, expect the already risk-averse Hillary to be especially sensitive to even the appearance of a scandal after slogging through an election marked by a scandal-hungry press. Mark out Susan Rice, the national security adviser who once was considered a favorite for secretary of state after Clinton stepped down but got wrapped up in the political mushroom cloud of Benghazi. Current Clinton favorites could include Wendy Sherman, a key cog in the Iran nuclear deal, or Bill Burns, whose steady, noncontroversial and decades-long tenure at the State Department makes him the Tim Kaine of secretary of state picks.
Even more than the last election, the vetting process is going to be brutal. Obama’s original picks for the secretaries of Health and Human Services as well as Commerce withdrew amid concerns over tax and corruption probes, respectively — missteps that hurt his agenda and contributed to the messy and drawn-out passage of Obamacare. Obviously Clinton won’t want to mire her legacy-making ambitions — including what Clinton political engagement director Marlon Marshall says will likely be one of her first priorities: a landmark immigration reform bill — in controversy. So current Labor Secretary Tom Perez seems a likely pick for attorney general; he was a favorite for the title before Loretta Lynch was selected, and he was already vetted for vice president earlier this year. Another safe pick: Education Secretary John King, who has been controversy-free since ascending to the job, even though that was only in March.
Bold on the Tricky Road of Defense
Clinton will need to resist her propensity to reward loyalty in sometimes decades-long relationships, particularly when it comes to foreign policy and military action. After spending an entire primary trying to convince her fellow Democrats that her Iraq vote was no big deal, hawkish selections would create distrust similar to the blowback felt aimed at Obama when he appointed Lawrence Summers and Timothy F. Geithner — who critics said played a role in creating the financial crisis — as top economic heads.
What about John Kasich? It sounds wild, but the Ohio governor is both adamantly anti-Trump and imminently qualified.
Incumbent Defense Secretary Ashton Carter may have a shot at staying, but his record under Obama may be too soft for Clinton’s tastes, plus he’s disliked by Republicans. A talented former Obama hand, Michèle Flournoy is a popular pick after having previously been considered for the role. A move toward bipartisanship could be to select Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican moderate who used to chair the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Having been present for more than 6,000 consecutive votes over nearly two decades, Collins is known for her yeomanlike governing, which may be appealing to the hardworking Clinton. Even more important, Collins has been adamant in her opposition of Donald Trump.
Surprises for the Economy
Speaking of across-the-aisle picks, what about John Kasich? It sounds wild, but Alderman says the Ohio governor could be a strong pick since he’s both adamantly anti-Trump and imminently qualified. The former Lehman Brothers banker has a sterling jobs record too, making him a good fit for either the Treasury or Commerce slots. Plus, he’s proven he can work with a Clinton before, when he helped pass a balanced budget with Bill as House Budget Committee chairman in the ’90s.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders acolytes will watch closely to see if Clinton follows through with her “cut it out” Wall Street rhetoric from the trail. And an outsider such as Sheryl Sandberg, Google’s COO and a former Treasury staffer, could excite both old and new factions of liberalism. Labor will also get a close look from leftists. Sanders probably gave up any sway here when he dragged out his endorsement, though his close friend, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, survived the Clinton veep vetting and is admired by the progressive wing of the party.
Who do you think might garner a cabinet position? Respond in the comments section below.