What If Obama Filled His Inner Circle With DC Outsiders?

What if Obama filled his cabinet entirely with people from outside the Beltway?

By: Garrett M. Graff

Every four years, presidential candidates run against Washington and the inside-the-Beltway crowd—yet few presidents have ever won an election on such a simple platform as Barack Obama’s message of “change.” That said, even the “change” candidate recognizes the need to work within Washington, hence his first appointment of established Washington brawler Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff. Both President Carter and President Clinton learned the hard way their first year just how much trouble a president can get into if he tries to be too much of a Washington outsider.

One clear message President-elect Obama could send would be to appoint Cabinet officials who have never worked in Washington. Here is one way an outsider Cabinet could shape up:

Secretary of State: Fareed Zakaria. Finding someone engaged in diplomacy who has never worked in Washington is tough. While Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, has made a career out of globalization issues, he’s never drawn a paycheck inside the Beltway.

Secretary of Defense: James McNerney Jr. As with State, it’s hard to find anyone defense-savvy who hasn’t passed through DC on one duty tour or another. The CEO of Boeing, an important link in the military-industrial complex, might be the best bet.

Secretary of Energy: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The California governor is a leader on green jobs and a green economy.

Secretary of Commerce: Warren Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha could become Washington’s prophet after backing Obama throughout the presidential race. While he grew up in DC, he hasn't ever worked here.

Secretary of Homeland Security: William Bratton. He’s led the New York police and now the Los Angeles police to considerable acclaim.

Attorney General: Janet Napolitano. Arizona’s popular governor is a former US Attorney. The closest she’s come to DC is graduating from the University of Virginia law school.

Secretary of Education: Arne Duncan. CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (and former Australian professional basketball player), Duncan would be a hometown hire for President Obama.

Secretary of the Interior: Brian Schweitzer. Montana’s governor spent seven years at the Department of Agriculture under President Clinton—but they were in Montana.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Antonio Villaraigosa. The LA mayor was a top Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter. But he’s stayed away from the Beltway throughout his career.UN Ambassador: David Rockefeller. Long involved in geopolitics from his New York perch, the Rockefeller heir sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Secretary of the Treasury: Vikram S. Pandit. Okay, the CEO of Citi hasn’t had the greatest year—but perhaps he’s humbled enough and savvy enough to lead the nation out of this economic crisis.

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