The Cabinet Possibilities Who Are Saying 'No, Thanks' (for Now)

By Al Kamen
Monday, December 1, 2008

We took a break from handicapping who's in the running for jobs in President-elect Barack Obama's administration to scour the public record and find contenders who have taken themselves out of consideration. Of course, some of these politicians could have a change of heart -- especially if the president-elect calls.

For example, it was but three weeks ago that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton told a New York television reporter: "I'm not interested in serving in the administration. I want to roll up my sleeves and be a good partner in the Senate for the agenda that I hope will be successful in the next two years."

Today, we're awaiting the official news conference at which Obama names Clinton as his secretary of state.

So here are some names you could cross off your list. (Use a pencil.)

John Brennan: Obama's top adviser on intelligence took his name out of the running for a position in the new administration after his potential appointment raised a firestorm among liberal bloggers, who associate him with the Bush administration's policies. "The fact that I was not involved in the decisionmaking process for any of these controversial policies and actions has been ignored," Brennan wrote in a letter to Obama, according to the Associated Press.

Jim Clyburn: The House majority whip and dominant force in South Carolina politics has been mentioned as a candidate to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But Clyburn told the Times and Democrat newspaper in Orangeburg, S.C., that he would not consider the job. "I have made it very clear I have no interest in leaving Congress," Clyburn said.

Susan Collins: The moderate Republican senator from Maine had been rumored to be under consideration for secretary of homeland security. But her office said she is not interested in leaving the Senate. "She has said while it's flattering to have her name mentioned, she's very happy being a senator from Maine," a spokesman told a newspaper in the state.

Kent Conrad: The Democratic senator from North Dakota told a home-state radio station that he feels "incredibly fortunate" to have had a 22-year Senate career and wants to remain in Congress. Besides, it would be up to North Dakota's Republican governor to appoint a replacement.

Artur Davis: The black Democratic congressman had been mentioned for attorney general. But Davis, a rising star in Alabama politics, reportedly wants to run for governor in 2010. He told the Gadsden Times he is "still not interested in the Cabinet." Asked about buzz that he was on the shortlist for attorney general, Davis said, "That proves you can have a lot of bad information move around quickly on the Internet."

Chet Edwards: The conservative Democratic congressman from Texas has been mentioned as a possible secretary of veterans affairs. Not happening, he says. "I believe I can do more for our military troops, our veterans and their families in my present position than I could as secretary of veterans affairs," Edwards told the Houston Chronicle.

Jim Hunt: The former North Carolina governor has been considered a possible education secretary, but he says he has no interest in the post. Hunt, 71, told the Raleigh News & Observer he wants to work closely with the Education Department -- but from North Carolina. "I just spent several days with the top Obama people," he said. "Many encouraged me to do it. I told them I would not go to Washington."

Richard Lugar: The senator from Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, steadfastly rejects the possibility of a Cabinet position. "From the time that I came back from the Navy, I've wanted to be my own boss, an independent spirit," Lugar told a radio station in the Hoosier State.

Claire McCaskill: The Democratic senator from Missouri says she won't leave Congress. "I'm the first one of my partisan stripe in a long time to serve in the United States Senate from Missouri," she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, adding that she has not discussed an appointment with Obama. "I feel a special obligation to continue in the Senate."

Sam Nunn: The Democratic former senator from Georgia is a perennial on shortlists for foreign policy posts. But he told reporters in Atlanta last month he's not interested. Nunn, 70, runs a Washington-based group that fights the global spread of nuclear materials. "I'm not interested in getting back into government," Nunn said. "I am happy in the private sector and I'm confident this is where I'm going to stay."

Colin Powell: The Republican four-star general and former secretary of state made a big splash when he endorsed Obama weeks before the election and is talked about as a possible education secretary. But Powell demurred, telling the Wall Street Journal, "I am not interested in a position in government, nor have I been approached."

Penny Pritzker: The Hyatt hotel heiress and Obama's close Chicago friend was considered the president-elect's top choice for commerce secretary, but Pritzker withdrew her name from consideration in part because she was unable to extricate herself from complex business ties. "Speculation has grown that I am a candidate for secretary of Commerce. I am not," Pritzker said in a statement. "I think I can best serve our nation in my current capacity: building businesses, creating jobs and working to strengthen our economy."

Olympia Snowe: The moderate GOP senator from Maine is often mentioned as a possible Republican addition to Obama's administration. But her office told the Kennebec Journal she is not interested in any post. "We have not been contacted regarding any Cabinet positions," Snowe spokesman John Gentzel said. "Senator Snowe is happy where she is."

With Philip Rucker and Alice Crites

© 2008 The Washington Post Company