Bye, Partisanship?

By Al Kamen
Friday, November 7, 2008

Okay, enough euphoria.

The first true test of whether President-elect Barack Obama will keep his promises to reach across the aisle will come long before he's sworn in. We'll know when we see how many Republicans he includes in his Cabinet.

The bar, it should be noted, is not all that high. Having one member of the other party in the 14 statutory Cabinet positions or the handful of Cabinet-rank slots -- such as U.S. trade representative or head of the Environmental Protection Agency -- has been the norm.

John F. Kennedy had a bona fide Republican, Douglas Dillon, as his Treasury secretary, and he had independent Robert McNamara as Pentagon chief. (And he had only 10 Cabinet positions to fill then.) But most presidents have gotten by with a token representative from the other party.

Lyndon B. Johnson had liberal Republican John Gardner at HEW. Richard M. Nixon had conservative Democrat John Connally as Treasury secretary and Democratic union official Peter Brennan at the Labor Department. Jimmy Carter named Republican James R. Schlesinger as the first energy secretary. Ronald Reagan had neocon Democrat Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the United Nations. George H.W. Bush had Reagan holdover Lauro Cavazos at Education. President Bill Clinton had liberal GOPer William Cohen as secretary of defense, and the current President Bush had Norman Y. Mineta at Transportation.

Obama insiders say he's serious about this bipartisan thing and about bringing in people from the high-tech world or some other business sector. If so, then he's going to have to do better than his predecessors, probably putting at least three non-D's in the Cabinet ranks, or it will look much like same-old, same-old.

One likely suspect, Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), took himself out of the running a while back for secretary of state, though he keeps getting mentioned. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and current Defense Secretary Robert Gates are obvious picks for the Pentagon. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is mentioned for energy secretary.

There are numerous, relatively bipartisan places to put Republicans, such as at Transportation or Commerce. But the Democratic frenzy for these few posts is already at a fever pitch. Obama will be under intense pressure to find places for minority supporters as well, especially Latinos. (Think 46 electoral votes in battleground states Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.)

We'll see how he fulfills his pledges by next month.

Camelot, the Sequel

As he assembles his new administration, Obama may tap some of the Kennedy clan. That should bring an extra dose of glamour to Washington.

Several Kennedy family members are said to be under consideration for positions in the Obama administration, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Caroline Kennedy and Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, a daughter of Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, could serve in a role advocating for women and people with special needs, a family member said.

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president and an early Obama endorser, has been mentioned for several positions, including U.N. ambassador. But she has been mum about whether she is interested in an administration post.

RFK Jr., an environmentalist who founded and chairs the Waterkeeper Alliance and works as a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, is talked about as head of the EPA -- a prospect that has some career staffers giddy.

"The rank and file are extremely excited about having the prospects of a real environmentalist in charge of EPA," Kevin Garragan, an engineer who has worked at the agency since the Carter administration, wrote in an e-mail. "Plus the fact that he's a Kennedy."

Pick, Before He Does

Don't forget to enter the Loop Pick Four contest, to guess who Obama will select for the original quartet of Cabinet posts: secretary of state, secretary of defense, secretary of the Treasury and attorney general. Bonus question: Guess which members of the opposing party will be in the Cabinet -- in those posts or others.

The top 10 winners -- and you don't need to guess all four correctly -- will win one of those coveted In the Loop T-shirts, plus bragging rights. Send entries via e-mail to or mail to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. You must include a phone number -- home, work or cell -- to be eligible. The deadline for entries is Nov. 17 -- or the moment that Obama fills one of the positions. So don't delay!

Travel Log

Some folks like to kick back with a cold one after a tough election season. Others like to hit the road. So next week will find a slew of House members in flight.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y), chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on Latin America, took off yesterday for Peru, Chile and Paraguay, with ranking minority member Dan Burton (R-Ind.) along for the weeklong jaunt. That'll give those embassy folks, obviously grown soft during election time, some extra work to do.

The far better trip, a Loop Four Star if ever there was one, is taking off Monday to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. NATO's headquartered in Brussels, but it has the good sense to meet this year in lovely Valencia, Spain. An early list showed that the group is headed by Rep. John S. Tanner (D-Tenn.) and includes Reps. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.) , Brad Miller (D-N.C.), Charlie Melancon (D-La.), Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and spouses. All seats business class. There are several other members going, but maybe there are still some seats.

Oh, wait. Did we mention that before Valencia, kind of as a warm-up, our hardy band stops in beautiful Rome, for a series of extremely important bilateral meetings on Monday and Tuesday? Wednesday finds them meeting and toiling in Florence. Exhausted but determined, only then do our lawmakers head to Valencia for four days.

Unfortunately, we can't invite you to perhaps the absolute best trip ever. Thomas Farrell, deputy assistant secretary of state for academic programs, a political appointee who'll be gone in January, is determined to work to the bitter end. So he's off today on a week-long trip across the Pacific.

Farrell will stop first in Japan for meetings with government officials and then head to an important educational conference in Bali, Indonesia, where, a spokesperson tells us, he will "convey our public diplomacy goals" to "hundreds of Asia-Pacific leaders," before returning next Friday night.

Lets hope those goals don't change.

Dog Bites Man

Not everyone in the White House is taking the news of Obama's victory with aplomb.

Reuters television White House correspondent Jon Decker reports President Bush's dog Barney, out for his walk yesterday morning on the White House North Lawn, let his reactions to the news show.

He "bit my right index finger this morning -- as I reached down to pet him," Decker told us. The bite broke skin and the wound was bleeding enough that White House physician, Richard Tubb, treated him with antibiotics. Decker's also getting a tetanus shot.

Barney may be just protecting his turf from intruders, thinking about the coming intrusion from the promised Obama pooch.

The Smell Test

President Bush achieved one major victory on Tuesday. Voters in San Francisco overwhelmingly defeated an effort to rename the local sewage-treatment plant after him. Maybe even West Coast liberals got offended by an ad featuring a photo of Bush and urging voters to "help put the number one guy on the number two building."

With Philip Rucker

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