NO DOUBT about it: Jimmy Carter removed two people - from the Housing and Urban Development Department and from Transportation - who were arguing the right side of policy issues and is now seeking to replace them with two other people who argue the right side of policy issues. His nominees for the two secretaryships - New Orleans' former mayor Moon Landrieu for HUD, Portland, Oregon's mayor Neil Goldschmidt for DOT - are men of sound records, who have distinguished themselves as lively, imaginative spokesmen for the rejuvenation of this country's cities. Mr. Landrieu, in fact, went so far in 1975 as to get actively involved in the effort to rescue New York City - not exactly an A-No. 1 popularity-getter in his part of the country, but evidence (of which there is plenty more) that he is a man unafraid of controversy. So, as it happens, is Mr. Goldschmidt.
Mr. Landrieu, who opened New Orleans' government to blacks, made his mark by spurring the revival of an old city that, for all its special character and fabled charm, faced problems of poverty and decline as severe as those of any northeastern industrial town. In Portland, known (rightly) as one of the country's most "livable" cities, Mr. Goldschmidt distinguished himself by using mass transit as the catalyst for downtown redevelopment. In other words, these will be Cabinet officers who will continue the main thrust - and in the Goldschmidt case, the rather controversial thrust - of the policies of their predecessors. Brock Adams' parting blast about mass transit may be supposed to have had some effect on the qualifications of the person the administration was thereafter obliged to choose as his successor.
Both Mr. Landrieu and Mr. Goldschmidt bring to their jobs another special qualification, however: They have been, God help them both, on the receiving end of the federal largesse and all the many-splendored regulations and codicils and intervention and overseeings that this largesse brings with it. They thus offer a consumer's perspective on the federal programs they will now administer, and that is surely a good thing. The down side of this is that they may not really have ample time to master the intricacies of the departments they have so suddenly been brought to Washington to administer.
Unless these two men are confirmed and installed with the speed of light, for instance - and even if they are - they will arrive at their posts more or less simultaneously with the completion of their department's proposed budgets for the forthcoming fiscal year. Not that the constraints the president has imposed left an awful lot of room for budgetary maneuver or innovation anyway. But the small details of each department's budget embody the large policy decisions a Cabinet officer should be making, and it seems doubtful that either man will arrive in time to have a substantial impact on these. Byond that, there is the question of the condition of the departments they will take over. Even when morale is at its highest (not now), it takes some time and figuring to get people working together and working right, and Mr. Landrieu and Mr. Goldschmidt don't have a lot of time to do that, either. The upshot is this: Mr. Carter has picked two very good men to take on jobs that he himself has made incomparably more difficult to do.